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The 11 Best Cognac Substitutes

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Cognac can be used for a few different things. When a recipe calls for cognac or you feel like having a glass but don’t have any, what could you use in its place?

There is no point buying a whole bottle of cognac for a once-off recipe either, especially if you won’t use it after.

To avoid wasting money this way, and to help you out when you just can’t get your hands on a bottle of cognac, it helps to know the best substitutes.

What are the best cognac substitutes? You can choose between alcoholic and non-alcoholic cognac substitutes. The best include brandy, whiskey, rum, bourbon, and sherry, and non-alcoholic substitutes could be fruit juice, and soy sauce.

The substitute you use for cognac will depend on what you need the cognac for, so having a few substitute options should have you sorted!

What Is Cognac?

To work out what the best substitute for cognac would be, you would first need to understand exactly what cognac is!

Cognac, which gets its name from where it is made, in Cognac France, is a type of brandy that is processed through a unique method.

Cognac is distilled twice and is left to age for a certain amount of time. There are certain requirements needed for this alcohol to be considered true cognac.

To go from being considered a brandy to a cognac, it needs to have a minimum aging period of two years, in oak casks at a registered storage facility, and it needs to have a minimum alcohol content of 40%.

All bottles of cognac also need to reveal where the grapes used to make the cognac were harvested, as well as where it was produced.

There are also different ways that cognac can be distinguished, and this has to do with how long the cognac has been left to age. The VS standard is Very Special – meaning it has been aged for a minimum of two years.

VSOP is Very Superior Old Pale, which is a cognac that has been aged for a minimum of four years, and XO, which is Extra Old, which is a cognac that has been aged for at least six years.

A cognac that has been aged for longer is considered to have a deeper taste and to be more high-quality, but this also depends on your own preferences!

What Can Cognac Be Used For?

Cognac is most commonly enjoyed as an alcoholic drink, either served neat or with a small amount of water or ice.

When used for cooking, a splash of cognac can give different dishes a rich flavor and can be used in both savory and sweet dishes.

Having a bottle of cognac in your alcohol cabinet or pantry at home will definitely be useful now and then, but if it is not something you use often, it is a bit of an expensive item to just have sitting around!

The 11 Best Cognac Substitutes

There are both alcoholic and non-alcoholic substitutes for cognac that can be used for both cooking, drinking, and beverage making!

Here are the best 11 substitutes that you could use, with the list including those that contain alcohol, and those that don’t.

1. Brandy

Brandy is the closest substitute you could get to cognac. After all, cognac is a type of brandy! Whether for enjoying as a drink or to use in a recipe, brandy replicates the taste of cognac well.

Brandy is a delicate spirit that is aged similar to cognac and has some similar notes too. It is sweet, slightly oaky, and fruity.

However, when you are using brandy in place of cognac, it is best to use one that is not specially flavored, unless there is a certain flavor you are looking to highlight in a dish, such as a caramel note in a dessert.

For the closest substitute to cognac, if you do not mind the alcohol, opt for brandy!

2. Dark Rum

Dark rum can be a good substitute for dark rum. It is a strong spirit, and using a little bit at first will probably work out best.

When substituting dark rum for cognac, you should only use about 1/3 of dark rum to what the recipe calls for.

Dark rum is also slightly sweeter than cognac, which is fine in sweet recipes, but when using it in a savory dish, it could alter the taste quite a bit. You will have to find a way to balance the flavors properly.

Lighter rum does not have as strong a flavor as dark rum, so it is better to opt for dark rum when substituting it for cognac.

3. Fruit Juice

Fruit juice can replace cognac in many different recipes. There are so many types of fruit juices available, and you can have a bit of freedom with the flavor of fruit juice that you choose to use, depending on what the recipe and meal is.

It is a good idea to use fruit juice in place of cognac in sweet recipes, but there are some fruit juices that can help make delicious sauces and gravy too!

When you need a little more acidity in the dish, which the fruit juice does not bring, you could add in a dash of cooking wine or apple cider vinegar. This will give the dish some acidity that the cognac would have brought.

4. Whiskey

Cognac and whiskey are often interchanged with each other in different scenarios, both as a drink and in certain recipes.

Whiskey is slightly sharper and more astringent than cognac, so it is important to keep this in mind when using it as a substitute.

You may have to use less whiskey than cognac when adding it into either savory or sweet dishes, as it can give a slightly different taste, and it is better to start off with less.

However, it still makes a great substitute for cognac, especially if you have a bottle of whiskey at home!

5. Bourbon

Bourbon has a fairly robust flavor, and while these flavors can be stronger than most cognacs, it is still a very viable option as a substitute for cognac!

You should use around 1/3 of bourbon to the amount of cognac that you would have used.

Just like with brandy, it is better to choose an unflavored bourbon, to ensure that you do not alter the flavor of a recipe or a drink too drastically.

The sweetness in cognac can be matched well with vanilla bourbon. If you find that bourbon is too sharp in place of cognac, you can add in a pinch of brown sugar or vanilla extract to soften it a bit.

6. Wine

There is quite a range of different types of wine you could use in place of cognac. Wine is quite readily available in most kitchens, and both cognac and wine are made from grapes – so using them as substitutes for each other makes sense.

However, as there are different types of wine, you do need to be careful with which one you use in place of cognac.

White wine can be used as a substitute for cognac for sauces and desserts. Choose this as a cognac replacement for dishes that would do well with some fruity, crisp notes that white wine gives.

Red wine is a good cognac substitute in meat dishes, such as for casseroles, stews, and even for making reductions. It brings depth to dishes, similar to that which cognac brings to a dish.

Port, which is also a type of wine, can be used in place of cognac. Make sure to choose a port that is not too sweet, as some are, and which has full-bodied flavor, so it can fill the shoes of the cognac that should have been used well!

It does help to have a taste of the wine you are looking to use first.

7. Sherry

Sherry can have a few similar notes to cognac, but it can be much sweeter, so you do have to proceed with caution! Sherry works as a good substitute for dessert recipes, as they won’t be altered too much by a little bit of sweetness.

You could also use sherry for some savory dishes too, especially ones that can use a little bit of sweetness, such as a tomato-based dish, to break down the acidity slightly.

So if a recipe like this calls for cognac and you have none, then sherry works great.

8. Armagnac

Armagnac is fairly similar to cognac, but the difference comes in with distillation. Where cognac is distilled twice using a pot still, Armagnac is done through column distillation.

There are also fewer regulations surrounding the production of Armagnac, so it is more affordable than cognac.

However different the distillation process is, Armagnac and cognac have a similar taste, and this makes them good substitutes for each other in many different situations.

9. Coffee Liqueur

Coffee liqueur is quite different from cognac, but both are dark spirits and both have a depth of flavor.

Dessert recipes that call for cognac are best for using coffee liqueur as a substitute, especially if you don’t mind the coffee taste that the liqueur will bring.

One such dessert that could really do well with coffee liqueur in place of cognac is tiramisu, where the coffee notes are absolutely delicious, and the cognac will not be missed at all!

It might actually become your new favorite spirit to use to make desserts in place of cognac.

10. Cooking Wine And Sweetener

Cooking wine and a sweetener, like sugar, is already used in many recipes and styles of cooking, and while it might not give the exact taste that cognac does, it can reproduce a fairly similar finish.

When cooked for some time, the alcohol content in cooking wine does disappear mostly. It works well in deglazing, gravy, desserts, and many different sauces.

Be sure to check the wine before adding in any sweetener, as some cooking wines are sweet already, so you don’t want to add in too much brown sugar that it sweetens that dish more than you needed it to.

11. Soy Sauce

Soy sauce might not be your first thought as a cognac substitute, but it can work well in certain dishes. It definitely contains more of a salty taste than cognac, so keep this in mind when seasoning your dish.

You will also not use as much soy sauce as you would cognac, and you could add in just a dash in its place. This is obviously only a good substitute when it comes to savory dishes, as you wouldn’t want some soy sauce dashed into your dessert.

If not soy sauce, you could also use Worcestershire sauce. It is similar to soy sauce, but with more pronounced flavors. Once again, only add in a small amount compared to the amount of cognac that the recipe needs.

Why Do I Need A Substitute For Cognac?

Needing a substitute for cognac could be for a few reasons. Firstly and most obviously, you might not have any cognac in your cupboard when a recipe calls for a dash or when you feel like some neat in the evening.

Another reason you would need to find a good substitute for cognac is that it isn’t cheap, and you wouldn’t necessarily want to use an expensive aperitif in your weeknight dinners.

You will need to consider what you need the cognac substitute for first before deciding which would be best.

For a drink substitute, the closest you will get is probably a brandy or a whiskey. When cooking, brandy works as a great substitute, but bourbon and wine are also other great options.

Looking for a non-alcoholic substitute for cognac is fairly easy too. For drinking, you could choose apple fruit juice or berry fruit juice.

When it comes to cooking, you could use fruit juice again, depending on the recipe, or even some soy sauce or Worcestershire sauce.

Related Questions

Now that we’ve gone over the best substitutes for cognac, let’s take a look at a few related questions on the subject!

What is the difference between cognac and brandy?

Cognac needs to be made in Cognac, in France, whereas brandy can be made just about anywhere in the world.

There are more requirements for cognac to be considered cognac, and it is one of the oldest spirits made to this day.

Is cognac similar to wine?

Cognac and wine are similar in the fact that they are both made from grapes.

Cognac is made with fermented grapes and grape juice, which does turn into wine at some point, it is then double-distilled and soaked in aged barrels before being considered cognac!

Why is cognac expensive?

Cognac does have a higher price than some other aperitifs because it is barrel-aged for quite a considerable amount of time.

It is also on limited production, so the demand is higher than the production, which in turn pushes the price up.

Can you drink cognac straight?

Cognac is traditionally served neat, as it is an aperitif. To add to cognac, you could pour in some tonic or ginger ale.

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