Ahh to be a grape. If you’re born on a good vine you could end up as a beautiful bunch of grapes at a picnic or in a fine bottle of wine. If you’re picked from a less desirable vine you might end up in a package of fruit snacks.
Then there are the grapes with an even higher purpose. These grapes are harvested and made into complex and exciting alcoholic beverages like Brandy or Sherry.
While undoubtedly different libations, Sherry and Brandy are both slightly offbeat choices that are enjoyed both casually or for special occasions.
Brandy vs Sherry
The Brandy vs Sherry matchup discussion starts with the counties of origin. They are both from a relatively small area in Europe but hail from two different countries and have two distinct histories.
Brandy is a distilled wine that originated many centuries ago in France. Now, hundreds of years later Brandy is made all over the world.
Different variations of Brandy have a range of flavors but are generally sweet and fruity. Brandy is used for drinking and for cooking. Some popular uses of Brandy are in the Brandy Old Fashioned, Egg Nog, or desserts like Cherries Jubilee or Bananas Foster.
Two popular types of Brandy are Cognac Brandy and Armagnac Brandy. Armagnac is the oldest Brandy still being made and Cognac is a very popular version of the spirit from the Cognac region of France.
Sherry vs Brandy isn’t just a one-sided matchup. Sherry is also bringing a long interesting history to the table. Sherry is a fortified wine that began production in Spain.
Sherry is a fruity, nutty, and refined alcohol that is typically enjoyed straight, in cocktails, or in cooking. Where Brandy is often used while cooking desserts, Sherry is more often used in savory recipes like sauces and soups.
The most common way to enjoy both the distilled wine and fortified wines is as an after-dinner drink or aperitif. Brandy is more associated as a drink of the people whereas Sherry has a reputation of being consumed by those in high society.
While these stereotypes may or may not be true it should be mentioned that Sherry is the favorite drink of notoriously snooty fictional brothers Niles and Frasier Crane from the television show Frasier.
How Are They Made?
While it has been mentioned that grapes are the starting point for both Sherry and Brandy there are different journeys to the end product.
As Brandy is a distilled wine, the first step in making Brandy is to make wine. Grapes are picked and then fermented to make wine.
While this wine can be consumed at this point most people would not want to. It is made specifically to eventually make Brandy.
The next step in the process is to distill the wine to purify and concentrate the desired alcohol. The liquid after distillation is referred to as eau de vie which translates to “water of life.” The eau de vis is then placed in oak barrels to age for a minimum of two years.
Sherry is a fortified wine that is also made from grapes. Fortifying wine means adding a distilled spirit to wine. First, grapes are harvested and pressed before fermentation.
Once fermented the wine is created and then filtered before fortification. The fortification step consists of adding a neutral spirit from grapes.
The spirit is then sent to barrels using the solera system which is an aging and blending system. Once aged the Sherry is bottled and shipped out for consumption.
What Are They Made Of?
Brandy is made with grapes. While technically Brandy can be made with any grapes the most common and favored varieties are Ugni Blanc and Folle Blanche which are both white grapes.
Adding flavors to Brandy is also becoming quite common. You’ll often see apple, peach, cherry, blackberry, and vanilla-flavored Brandy out in the wild.
Sherry on the other hand is made with just three types of grapes. Palomino, Moscatel, and Pedro Ximénez although the vast majority of Sherry is made with Palomino grapes. All three varieties are white grapes.
How Are They Similar?
Both Brandy and Sherry are made with white grapes and originated in Europe. They are both distilled spirits that are aged in wooden barrels or casks.
They also have similarities in how they are used. Both beverages are consumed neat, in cocktails, and in cooking. Although there’s no wrong time to sip on either Sherry or Brandy they are both commonly enjoyed as an after-dinner treat.
Price, Size, Color, Alcohol Percentage Comparison
Brandy has four main designations based on age. They are VS (Very Special), VSOP (Very Superior Old Pale), XO (Extra Old), and Hors D’âge (Beyond Age).
VS means that the youngest Brandy in the blend has been aged for at least two years, VSOP means the youngest Brandy has been aged for at least four years, XO means the youngest Brandy in the blend has been aged for at least six years, and Hors D’âge is a Brandy that is at least ten years old.
Cognac and Armagnac are types of Brandy from specific regions.
There are a whopping seven types of Sherry. The specific Sherry fits into a category based on the grape, other ingredients added, and production method.
The seven types of Sherry are Amontillado, Cream, Fino, Manzanilla, Oloroso, Palo Cortado, and Pedro Ximénez.
When it comes to price both Sherry and Brandy are both available in a wide range of prices based on brand, age, and rarity.
Brandy like Hennessy VS Cognac and Courvoisier VS Cognac costs more in the area of $40. Many fine Sherries like Gonzalez Byass Tio Pepe and Emilio Lustau are available in the $15 to $30 range for a 750 ml bottle.
Speaking of size, both liquors are offered in the standard sizes with 375 ml, 750 ml, and 1.75 L being the most common.
As mentioned there are quite a few types of each of these spirits. As a result, there are also quite a few colors to go along with those different types. The majority of these would fall into the golden or light brown categories.
Flavored Brandy may take on the color of its added flavor and Cream Sherry has more of a reddish hue.
One big contrast between Brandy and Sherry that hasn’t been discussed is the alcohol content. Brandy is more in line with traditional spirits at 70-80 Proof. Sherry has a much lower alcohol percentage similar to wine at 30-44 Proof.
How to Drink?
There’s no wrong way to drink these spirits. They are often imbibed neat as an after-dinner drink but also work well mixed up in compelling cocktails.
When Sherry is served straight up it should be chilled, just a few ounces (3 oz), and in either a Sherry glass or wine glass.
Sherry adds depth to most cocktails and has seen a bit of a resurgence lately due to a demand for lower alcohol cocktails. Here’s a favorite Sherry-based cocktail to try:
- 1 ½ oz Dry Sherry
- 1 ½ oz Dry Vermouth
- 1 Dash Angostura Bitters
- 1 Dash Orange Bitters
- Lemon Twist (for Garnish)
Add the liquid ingredients into an ice-filled mixing glass and stir well. Strain into a chilled glass and garnish with the lemon twist.
When Brandy is served neat it should be served at room temperature for best results. Brandy is very versatile as a mixer in cocktails.
Some examples of spellbinding Brandy Cocktails are Brandy Old Fashioned, Brandy Alexander, Sazerac, Metropolitan, and the Vieux Carré. How about a sweet and creamy Brandy Alexander?
- 1 ½ oz Brandy or Cognac
- 1 ½ oz White Creme de Cacao
- 1 ½ oz Heavy Cream or Half and Half
- Nutmeg (for Garnish)
Add the ingredients to a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake for 15 seconds, strain into a cocktail glass, and top with grated nutmeg.
When looking for a substitute for either Sherry or Brandy you have plenty of options. Even though they are different they can be substituted for each other.
Beyond that, Vermouth, Madeira, or other fortified wines are solid Sherry substitutes. Whiskey, Rum, and Gin are all acceptable stand-ins for Brandy depending on the situation.
Brandy vs Sherry FAQs
Which came first?
The records are tough when you go back that far but it is generally accepted that Sherry is slightly older than Brandy.
Which is more popular?
Both have their supporters but as a whole Brandy is consumed in higher volumes.
Which is stronger?
Brandy is much stronger than Sherry. More than twice as strong.