The Best Drinks To Mix With Brandy, Ranked

Brandy is a distilled spirit, delivering an ABV (alcohol by volume) of 40 to 50% ABV, which is equal to 80 to 100 proof, according to Food Network. That puts brandy into the same category as whiskey and other hard liquors. Nevertheless, brandy has acquired something of a staid reputation, associated in popular culture with tweedy fireside after-dinner quaffing from enormous snifters, which concentrate brandy's various scents and flavors as they waft toward the nose (via Advanced Mixology). Brandy can be distilled from just about any fruit that has been fermented, including grapes, peaches, apples, cherries, and apricots. However, references to brandy (just brandy) are almost invariably to a spirit that has been distilled from fermented grapes. That could help explain why some people may describe brandy as an aged spirit that's been distilled from wine. While true, it's a bit of an oversimplification.

Brandy can be made in any country, but if it is called Cognac or Armagnac, it must come from one or another area within southwest France and meet a litany of other requirements (via Wine Enthusiast Magazine). Although many countries and regions have their versions of brandy, this particular ranking of the best drinks to mix with brandy will focus on grape-based brandy, including Cognac and Armagnac. 

10. Chocolate milk

Although chocolate milk came in 10th in our ranking, it is still, in our opinion, among the best drinks that you can mix with brandy. In fact, chocolate milk and brandy synthesize beautifully to deliver a creamy, rich mouthfeel that brings out the essential sweetness of the brandy, which underlies its oaky alcohol burn. But who are we kidding? The truth is that we love chocolate milk with brandy because it's an easy at-home version of a classic Brandy Alexander cocktail. The Brandy Alexander combines brandy, cream, and chocolate liqueur topped with freshly grated nutmeg, according to

Combining chocolate milk with brandy delivers the essential flavors of a Brandy Alexander but without the bother of having to keep your bar cart stocked with crème de cacao. It also creates a gentle workaround for the high-fat content of the cream, which you won't miss at all. Just shake your favorite chocolate milk and the brandy of your choice with ice and strain into a coupe glass. There's no rule here about proportions, nor is there any requirement that you grate nutmeg over the top of your cocktail. But nutmeg definitely adds an earthy, spicy dimension. Or, if you're not in the mood for chocolate, you can use plain whole milk instead. 

9. Crème de menthe

Crème de menthe is the starting point for the garishly hued grasshopper cocktail, which, in the past, we've jokingly referred to as a "cocktail known to 10-year-old suburban girls who have been banished to the family room to watch Love Boat." Spot-on as this characterization may be, we also recognize that it may do a bit of a disservice to the reputation of crème de menthe, which is more sophisticated than its association with the grasshopper would imply. 

Crème de menthe is a sweet, lightly aged distillation made from neutral alcohol mixed with mint leaves or mint extract (via It was invented by a pharmacist in 1885 for use as a digestif, but it was quickly embraced by the fancy cocktail quaffing crowd at the bar of the Grand Hotel in Angers, France, according to The Bar Cabinet. It's unclear who came up with the idea of mixing crème de menthe with brandy, but some experts trace the genesis of the combination to the Stinger cocktail of pre-Prohibition. In any case, crème de menthe mixes well with brandy and is incredibly refreshing when served over ice as a Stinger. You can play around with the proportions, but keep in mind that the more crème de menthe you use, the sweeter your resulting drink will be. 

8. Amaretto

Fruit and nuts are a classic flavor juxtaposition that spans numerous cultures worldwide — from Cadbury's Fruit and Nut varieties to traditional Sephardic haroset. So, it only stands to reason that brandy, which is, by definition, always fruit-based, would combine so nicely with a nutty liqueur such as amaretto. An amber-colored liqueur made from the kernels inside apricot pits, amarettos boast the alluringly rich aroma of sweet marzipan while delivering a sophisticated blend of bitter and sweet almond flavors, per A Couple Cooks. In fact, the amaretto descriptor comes from the Italian way of saying that something is just a "little bit bitter."

Amaretto performs well as an after-dinner sipper, whether served neat or over ice. When combined with brandy and shaken with ice, the combination becomes a cocktail known as the French Connection, whose name is an homage to the 1971 film by the same name, according to One sip and you, too, may become a fan of the juxtaposition of brandy's "bright and fruity base" with amaretto's bittersweet nuttiness. In terms of proportion, this is another pair that can be played to your preferences. Although it's not uncommon for bartenders to combine these on a two to one basis (two parts brandy to one part amaretto), this does yield a dryer result than using slightly less of the Cognac or brandy. 

7. Sweet vermouth

As we make our way from drinks we consider good mixers for brandy to those we consider the best of the best, we take a detour now from sweet liqueurs to sweet vermouth. A fortified wine, sweet vermouth is sweet, but not as much as something like amaretto (per The Spruce Eats). While sweet vermouth is higher in alcohol content than most wines, according to Serious Eats, its 15-18% ABV is still lower than many sweet liqueurs (via Clique Bar & Lounge).

What makes vermouth a truly inspired choice for mixing with brandy is twofold. First, this combination is already beloved in the Brandy Manhattan cocktail. The Brandy Manhattan cocktail is simply a riff on the classic Manhattan, which is made with whiskey, vermouth, and a dash of bitters. If you don't have bitters handy but fancy the depth a dash can deliver, you can substitute Campari, absinthe, or amaro, per A Couple Cooks. Alternatively, you can swap dry vermouth for some of the sweet to de-emphasize the sweetness.

Second, the combination of vermouth with brandy is delightfully fitting, if not meta, given that vermouth is, at its essence, wine fortified with brandy, according to VinePair. To make an at-home version of a brandy Manhattan, combine two parts brandy to one part sweet vermouth, and garnish with a cherry. Ice is optional.

6. Kahlúa

Kahlúa is a particular brand of coffee-flavored liquor, and while any coffee-flavored liqueur will pair well with brandy (including this easy-to-make-at-home coffee liqueur), what impresses us about Kahlúa is that it uses rum as its alcohol base (via Kahlúa). This is significant because rum's subtle sweetness complements both coffee and brandy, bringing out the flavors of the Arabica coffee with a hint of vanilla.

In addition, the combination of brandy and Kahlúa is already an existing cocktail known as the Dirty Mother, which is as ridiculously easy to make as it is ridiculous to say in public. And that's a distinct advantage because once you make yourself your own Dirty Mother cocktail, you'll never again have to deal with the weirdness of asking for a Dirty Mother in a bar.

Mixing Kahlúa with brandy may also remind you of another cocktail made with Kahlúa. We're talking about the historic Cold War-era Black Russian cocktail. In fact, the Kahlúa website points out that the Dirty Mother cocktail is really nothing more than a Black Russian cocktail made with brandy instead of vodka. And it's really that simple: one Kahlúa to one part brandy; stir and serve over ice.

5. Hot coffee

According to the self-proclaimed coffee addict behind the Full Coffee Roast blog, many spirits pair well with coffee. That, of course, includes brandy, which appears on numerous lists of the best spirits for pairing with coffee (see, e.g., The Spruce Eats and Bustle). Brandy is also the spirit of choice in the hot coffee-based Spanish cocktails Carajillo and Belmonte (via Vindulge). The essential difference between the Carajillo and the Belmonte cocktails is that the Carajillo combines unsweetened black coffee and brandy, whereas the Belmonte combines milk-lightened coffee with brandy or perhaps condensed milk-lightened espresso, per Taste Atlas. This combination of bitter coffee with the sweetness of brandy brings out the complexity of the flavors of both the coffee and brandy.

To make your own, Vindulge recommends using one shot of espresso for one ounce of brandy. For regular coffee, Vindulge recommends two parts coffee to one part brandy. Of course, you should feel free to experiment with the proportions to determine what your favorite might be. Now, you can certainly enjoy coffee with brandy in a coffee cup or mug. But if you want it to look like a cocktail, you can serve it in a martini glass, rimmed with sugar. And if you want to make a show of constructing it, you can place a sugar cube at the bottom of the glass, pour the brandy in next, and top with the coffee.

4. Grand Marnier

Brandy and orange is a classic, well-loved flavor combination. In fact, the only reason that we didn't include orange juice in our ranking of the best drinks to mix with brandy is that we feel we are already kind of covering it, at least in spirit, in this discussion of Grand Marnier and how beautifully it pairs with brandy. Grand Marnier is a particular brand of orange-flavored liquor — one of many. However, what distinguishes Grand Marnier is that it actually begins with Cognac brandy. "Grand Marnier features brandy made from Ugni Blanc grapes from five Cognac crus, and is double-distilled in copper stills," according to VinePair. In other words, when you mix Grand Marnier with brandy, you're essentially mixing an orange-flavored brandy with a more neutral-tasting brandy made from grapes.

That being said, any good-quality orange-flavored liqueur should, theoretically, offer a nice complement to brandy. It's just that Grand Marnier's use of Cognac offers a dimension of flavor that you might not experience when combining brandy with an orange-flavored liqueur made from another spirit (per Serious Eats). One thing to note about Grand Marnier, versus other orange-flavored liqueurs — and versus any of the drinks that made this listing of the best to mix with brandy, is that Grand Marnier is 80 proof. That may not be surprising when you consider that Grand Marnier is made with brandy, which is also 80 proof. But it's definitely something to consider in pacing your session.

3. Hot water

"Brandy and water spoils two good things," wrote English writer Charles Lamb several hundred years ago (via The Brandy Authority). As brilliant an essayist as Lamb may have been, we still have to disagree with his take. And so too, we believe, would anyone who's ever enjoyed a hot toddy made from a good brandy. And that would appear to be a long list, considering the hot toddy's centuries-old history, per Condé Nast Traveller India, which traces its origins to at least as far back as 1786, and possibly as far back as early 17th century India, when "taddy" referred to an alcoholic beverage made from palm sap (via Vinepair). 

Another popular hot toddy-origin story identifies the toddy's inventor as an 18th-century Irish doctor by the name of Todd. As the story goes, Dr. Todd prescribed brandy with hot water to his patients — with a bit of sugar to help it go down easier. For what it's worth, VinePair makes a strong case for the likelihood being that both stories offer some glimpse of the truth. But shifting back to certainties, if you've got some decent brandy and a kettle on hand, you can be enjoying a hot toddy in minutes just by pouring your brandy into a glass or cup and topping it with a bit of hot water — and if you must, a bit of sweet syrup such as maple, honey, or agave.

2. Champagne

Champagne, a bubbly white wine made from grapes grown in the Champagne region of northern France, is a different product than the other sparkling white wines such as prosecco and cava. Although they may be delicious, these aren't considered Champagne, per Boston Magazine. There are two reasons why Champagne gets the nod here, as opposed to one of the other fizzy whites. The first is that Champagne, together with brandy, forms the basis of one of the oldest in cocktail history (via Difford's Guide). That would, of course, be the Champagne cocktail, and that calls for Champagne and Cognac.

The Champagne cocktail's origins are unknown, but its first published recipe dates back to 1862. That first recipe called for bitters, sugar, and Champagne but made no mention of brandy. Although brandy may have always been an unofficial ingredient, it wasn't until sometime later that brandy came to define the classic Champagne cocktail, just as much as the sugar cube and the dash of bitters. The second reason why we ranked Champagne so highly is that there is something incredibly poetic about mixing Champagne with a brandy made from Champagne grapes. Known as Champagne Cognac, it mixes exquisitely well with Champagne (via Barina Craft). Sugar and bitters are, of course, optional.

1. Soda

Soda earns our top ranking. And by soda, we mean any carbonated nonalcoholic beverage, limited only by your taste preferences and mood. Carbonation delivers an instant freshness and lightness to brandy. Perhaps more importantly, the bubbles help waft the brandy's aromas toward your nose, intensifying your taste experience. At the same time, a little soda helps dilute the brandy's alcohol, which can help to moderate your alcohol consumption, per Cancer Council Victoria. Of course, Champagne and other fizzy white wines do precisely the same thing. However, carbonated soda offers myriad flavor options, including, in the case of club soda, no discernable flavor at all. And it's less expensive and more widely available than Champagne and other bubblies.

If we have to choose a favorite soda, we'll go with club soda or seltzer because it doesn't change the brandy flavor. So, it will appeal to brandy purists who aren't looking to tweak the flavor of their spirit of choice too much. Instead, the addition of these neutral-flavored sodas will make the drink more fun, light, and sessionable. However, lemon-lime-flavored sodas are a strong second, followed by orange and cherry. Cola works as well, but it falls a bit lower on our list because it doesn't reference the fruity notes in the brandy so much as the nutty, spicy notes. For those who enjoy a dash of bitters, tonic water mixed with grapefruit soda delivers a comparable flavor.