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Jan 30, 2011 10:49 AM

French Onion Soup -- best alcohol to use?

I am making French onion soup tonight and have been looking at a bunch of different recipes from which to work. They don't really differ from each other much, only in how long they recommend cooking the the onions and letting the soup simmer, as well as in what kind of alcohol they suggest. I have one that says to use dry sherry, another dry red wine, and another dry white wine. My thought is that sherry would be good since it is typically used in fondue which has similar flavors from the gruyere. What are people's opinions about which would be best? Oh, and I doubt it will matter, but I am making this vegetarian so using veggie stock instead of beef or chicken.

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  1. So you probably don't want to hear that I have used Vermouth, do you? I have and that was fine, but have also used sherry (dry, though, not sweet). And I have used both brandy and cognac,too to "finish". Very forgiving dish!

    1 Reply
    1. I say cognac, brandy or some dark beer.

      1. Dry sherry, brandy, madiera, red wine or cognac, if you're flush. I find that the flavor of white wine disappears, but vermouth is ok. Guinness or a similar tout, is a very good option also.

          1. While the late great Julia Child used both a good dry vermouth along with a few dollops of cognac, since her onion soup is the only thing I've ever used dry vermouth for, these days I use a nice dry white, like a chablis or even an Italian Pino Grigio - along with the cognac, which I believe is necessary.

            Dry sherry would work, but I'd use less if you're subbing it in for white wine, as the flavor is stronger & more distinctive. I'm also not sure I'd add the cognac along with the sherry. Would probably just use the sherry by itself.

            As far as using a dry red wine, I'd only use that if I were using beef stock. Since I always make my onion soup with chicken stock, it's white wine only for me (along with the cognac).

            2 Replies
            1. re: Breezychow

              Vermouth was Julia's standard, not just in this dish.

              Something like vermouth or sherry is usually added to a soup near the end, adding an extra touch of flavor. A clear beef consume with sherry comes to mind.

              White wine (say a 1/2c) would be added at the start with the stock.

              1. re: paulj

                Julia's "standard" was dry vermouth only because when she was working out recipes, it was her feeling that really good drinkable white wine was either not readily available or was out of reach moneywise to the average consumer at the time.

                Since that is no longer the case, there's no reason to use it in place of a nice dry white wine (unless of course you really like dry vermouth).