substituting different liquor in recipes
Can any one tell me if it's okay to substitute different type of liquors in various recipes? I don't want to go out and buy a bunch of different kind. I have a big bottle of congnac, can it be used in placed of sherry, or brandy? The kind of recipes that I'm thinking about are things like pate, gravy, or even for baking.
I would say it depends ENTIRELY on what the recipe is. Sometimes sherry is called for because it is sweeter where cognac is not. If the recipe calls for brandy, than cognac can definitely be substituted. In baking, if the recipe calls for an orange liqueur and you don't have Grand Marnier lying around, Triple Sec works fine (both have an orange taste). An alternative to something like that would be to soak dried orange rind WITH the cognac but you still wouldn't get the sweetness.
In pates and gravies, it probably doesn't make any difference except, again, if it calls for sherry. Some sherries can be substituted with port or madeira, depending on the flavor desired.
By-and-large, I do a lot of substituting (ouzo for pernod, kirschwasser for cherry liquer, and the aforementioned Triple Sec... and that sort of thing).
Here are a few suggestions that may help:
First, cognac and brandy are interchangeable in cooking; cognac is simply a subset of brandy. Some of the best known liqueurs are flavored brandies, such as Grand Marnier.
But even when brandy-based, liqueurs tend to be much sweeter than brandy, so keep that in mind when making substitutions.
Brandy, like other liquors, is generally about 40 percent (80 proof) alcohol, whereas sherry, port, Marsala, and vermouths are much lower. (Liqueurs vary greatly, so it's best to check the label.) This means that if the dish is not cooked, and the recipe calls for sherry, the brandy will give it a much harsher flavor. Also, if a recipe ever calls for deglazing a hot pan, know that the brandy *will* ignite, whether or not you put a flame to it (trust me, I had the singed eyebrows to prove it).
Finally, if the flavor of the liqueur is integral to the dish (hazelnut, orange, raspberry, etc.) you'll change the profile of the dish if you use something with a different flavor -- sometimes it works, sometimes not. The good news is that many of the liqueurs most commonly used in cooking are available in miniatures, so if you only need a few tablespoons, you needn't buy a whole bottle.
I find that substituting sherry, Marsala, and Madeira for each other generally works. You can usually substitute dry vermouth for dry white wine with fair success. Substituting triple sec for Grand Marnier can work, depending on the recipe, but the Grand Marnier has a much more complex taste than triple sec (and it's sweeter).
Hope this helps.
re: Janet A. Zimmerman
Well said Janet.
Here are some more groups I've broken down, off the top of my head, according to flavor.
Triple sec, Grand Marnier, Cointreau, Curacao(orange liquers)
Kahlua, Tia Maria (coffee liquer)
Pernot, Ouzo, Anisette (licorice liquer)
Creme de Cacao, Godiva Chocolate Liquer (chocolate liquer)
Peppermint schnapps, Creme de menthe, Rumpelminz (mint liquer)
Cognac, brandy (grape spirits)
Rye Whiskey, Bourbon, Sour Mash (grain spirits)
Lairds Apple Jack, Calvados (apple spirits)
Unflavored Vodkas (neutral grain spirits)
I've got way too much time on my hands tonight. But I hope this helps.