Cognac Substitutes That Can Maintain Flavor And Style

Cognac Substitute

Looking for a cognac substitute for your cocktail or food? Cognac is a rather popular ingredient that finds use in baking, cooking, cocktail, or just enjoying the cognac! 

To put it simply, cognac is a type of brandy produced by twice distilling grapes and aging in Limousin oak casks for at least two years. The name includes geographic connotation and only such brandy produced in the Cognac commune of France may call itself cognac. 

Technically speaking, there are a few Armenian cognac manufacturers too, though there is an agreement in place to phase out the Armenian nomenclature in the next 10 years or so.

Coming back to its culinary expertise, cognac is a top-shelf product. It’s flavorful and expensive. While its deliciousness encourages its use in several recipes, the cost of cognac can appear to be an impediment.

That, or any other reason might encourage you to look for a substitute. Whatever your reason might be, here are a few options that can work for you.

Top Substitutes For Cognac You Can Use

1. Brandy

Since cognac is a type of brandy, it is possible to use brandy as a replacement. If the intended recipe is a cocktail or plain cognac, going with a top-shelf brandy will give you the best results. 

There’s a little bit more wiggle room in baking and cooking, as the other ingredients will offer some flavor as well. In these cases, you could use an inexpensive brandy without the dish suffering. Some cocktails too might benefit with this approach.

All said and done, cognac is basically a brandy produced in a specific region. While it has its distinct taste and flavors, a cognac can be very similar to a well-picked brandy.

2. Armagnac

Armagnac is another type of brandy, though this one is more specific to the Armagnac region of Gascony in France. Apart from the geographic denomination, there are a few points that differentiate Armagnac from cognac or conventional brandy. 

Generally considered a digestif, armagnac has a lower alcohol content compared to cognac. It’s drier and has a more complex taste. Overall, it can work as a cognac substitute in most settings. It works great with cocktails or a straightforward replacement. 

It could work with baking and cooking as well, though that takes away some of the complex flavors. For these purposes, it’s better to use another substitute or brandy.

3. Wine

Wine can be a decent replacement in cooking. Use it for gravy or sauces and you’re all set. Wines work better as replacements for cooking and baking, though they aren’t the best choices for cocktails or drinks. 

When choosing a wine for cooking, pick one that can handle being reduced. Chardonnays can’t handle being reduced and Shiraz tends to overpower the flavor.

Red wines go great with meat and white wines can enrich the flavor for baking and general cooking. Look at port if you want a full-bodied replacement that’s not overly sweet.

4. Ararat

Ararat is an Armenian brandy sometimes labeled as a cognac. It possesses several qualities of cognac and can be a decent replacement for most uses. The more difficult part, perhaps, is getting your hands on one! 

While it is easily available in the former Soviet bloc and parts of Eastern Europe, it’s more difficult to find in the Western world. As legend goes, Winston Churchill liked it some much during the Yalta Conference, he had several boxes shipped to England every year!

5. Whiskey

The good old whiskey, or better yet, Scotch whiskey can be a good choice for a drink, or perhaps a few cocktails. It could perhaps work with cooking as well, but it’s better to leave that part to other alternatives. Use a good scotch for the drinks! 

There is an obvious difference in flavors though, so start small to see how it works out before adding more whiskey.

6. Bourbon

Picking a bourbon for replacement is another good idea. Since it is basically a whiskey, the specifics work the same way. Again, it is better to use this one for drinks and cocktails, while leaving the cooking and baking aspects to other options, like brandy or even rum!

7. Sherry

The Spanish Sherry is a fortified wine with sharp and dry flavors. It’s quite a treat by itself, but can work as a cognac replacement if you’re in a pinch and can’t get a hold of other substitutes. It has a notably different flavor, so it won’t quite work with cocktails or mocktails.

On the other hand, it gets along fabulously with food. There will be some change in flavor in this case too, but it’s usually acceptable and doesn’t cause a big shift in the food. Sherry can be a viable cognac substitute for cooking a beef stroganoff. 

8. Brandy Extract

Brandy extract is an option that comes in handy for several recipes as well as diet preferences. While many of these extracts contain alcohol, there are a few alcohol-free options available too. The latter are helpful for those who would rather their food contain no alcohol, even in trace amounts.

The extract is a good choice for most cooking and baking needs. It could possibly work with a few cocktails too, or maybe whip up a few mocktails. However, it can’t work as a standalone substitute for cognac as a drink.

9. Rum

Rum and cognac have very different flavors and taste profiles. Yet, many recipes will happily accept rum as a substitute for cognac. The deep and complex flavors of the humble rum are as enjoyable as those offered by the top-shelf cognac. 

There will be an unmistakable change in flavor, whether you use it for cooking and baking or for some cocktails. Yet, the flavor of rum works with most recipes, and you won’t be at a loss picking this replacement.

10. Cooking Wine With Added Sugar

Generally speaking, I won’t put much stock in cooking wines. They often lack flavor and the added salt makes the whole thing more off-putting. But they exist because they do have their uses! In this case, they can work as acceptable substitutes for cognac in a few cooked dishes.

You can add a bit of brown sugar to offset the saltiness of the wine. However, in case the dish already includes some salt, working the inherent sweetness of the wine might be acceptable. The addition of sugar will depend more on your personal taste.

11. Fruit Juices

If your intention is to absolutely avoid alcohol, some fruit juices can do the trick. They work fabulously for mocktails, though you can also use them for several cooking recipes. When using juices for the latter, remember that juices have an inherent sweetness. Given this fact, it’s best not to use juices that contain added sugar, as that can throw off the sweetness of a recipe.

The most popular picks for juices that can substitute cognac are apple, pear, apricot, and peach. They can work with most recipes, though you might want to put in some extra care with sauces to keep a check on the sweetness.

12. Calvados

Calvados is another brandy with geographic connotations. This one’s produced in Normandy, France. It has its own distinct taste, thanks to the main ingredient being apple or pears. Either way, this is a decent substitute for cognac. It can work with drinks, cocktails, or with desserts and cooking. It might bring a small change in flavor, but that’s rarely a problem for most recipes.

So What’s A Good Substitute For Cognac?

If you’re looking for a cognac substitute that’s remarkably close to the original, try a top-shelf brandy. Several other options can be decent substitutes for this famous drink. Cognac is an expensive drink, so it might make better sense to replace it in some recipes. The list also includes some simple options to use in case in case you run out of cognac and want a quick replacement.

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