A Deluxe (Inexpensive) French Brandy Choice for Drinking and Cooking
Photos by John Kiely This brandy tastes luxurious at a value price.
Brandy-drinking weather may be blasting into most of the country, but I'd be hesitant to declare any sort of brandy season in subtropical Houston. Still, there seems enough colder air coming deeper into the heart of Texas to demand at least one bottle of the spirit per winter, and in addition, brandy is a common ingredient in holiday cooking.
I was surprised when an oil-business uncle, who could easily shell out the cash for a bottle of France's better XO Cognacs, served me a glass of St. Rémy Napoleon VSOP Brandy, as I'd seen it in liquor stores lumped together with low-priced American brandies such as Paul Masson Grande Amber and E&J XO. It was just a shelf above cheap Korbel brandy, which is, along with Sprite or 7UP and no whiskey, a main ingredient of a Wisconsin Old-Fashioned cocktail.
Uncle explained that he'd never acquired a taste for Cognac, but enjoyed the milder taste of the Napoleon as a nightcap. Indeed, it is very smooth and delicious and warming, and though no replacement for Cognac in a Sidecar or French 75, it's certainly worth the $13.59 price at Spec's. As far as cooking goes, St. Rémy actually tastes better than Cognac in making fruit-based dishes or dessert. It can even turn a boring jar of applesauce into something more special (recipe follows).