What’s The Best Cognac Substitute? Our Ultimate Guide!

Cognac isn’t only an excellent drink to nurse after a stressful day of work but also an excellent ingredient for dishes and beverages! That’s why we always have a bottle of good cognac in the kitchen for emergencies, whether for cooking or drinking, to forget the day.

Kidding aside, we know not everyone won’t have cognac handy in the kitchen, while some don’t drink alcohol. That’s completely fine; it doesn’t mean you should skip every recipe calling for this drink.

Read on as we show you the best cognac substitutes!

The Best Cognac Substitutes

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Whether it’s for cocktails, desserts, or savory dishes, there are numerous substitutes you can use to capture the flavor and texture to expect. Try any of these alternatives:

1. Armagnac: French Brandy

Armagnac is a kind of French brandy, just like cognac. However, these drinks are different because cognac asks for ugni blanc grape while Armagnac calls for other grape varieties like Folle Blanche, Baco blanc, and colombard. Furthermore, Armagnac is more full-bodied than cognac. (*)

When using this good substitute for Cognac, use a 1:1 proportion for cocktails and recipes. Note that Armagnac may overpower your food so you can start with a smaller amount at first. We recommend using brandy for red meats and cream sauce.

You can also use other kinds of brandy, which has an alcohol content of 35-60%. The drink is produced by distilling crushed fruit, then aged in a wooden liquor cabinet for over two years. It’s then mixed with distilled water, reducing the alcohol concentration.

2. Calvados

Like Armagnac and Cognac, Calvados is a French brandy originating from Normandy. It’s usually made of apples or pears, with a well-balanced flavor carrying notes of the fruits it’s made of.

Use a 1:1 proportion to cognac when drinking it as an alcoholic beverage and cooking. We highly recommend using it when flambeed to serve with pancakes or for savory dishes like beef and chicken for umami notes.

3. Sherry

Sherry is a type of fortified wine that originates from Spain. Sherry has less alcoholic content than Cognac, having about 20%.

Because of that, use double the amount of sherry in your cocktails to achieve the similar strength level you desire. Use Manzanilla, a dry and light variety of Fino sherry, for cocktails.

When cooking, use a 1:1 ratio, especially when making sauces. If you want a more decadent sauce, use an older sherry bottle.

Learn: Does Sherry Go Bad? How Long Can It Last?

4.   Red or White Wine

One of the best substitutes for Cognac is French wine, an old drink that’s become popular worldwide.

You can use white, red, or non-alcoholic wine appropriate for various dishes.

White wine has a high acidity level with a fresh and clear flavor best for seafood dishes with high-fat content, as it breaks down the dish’s fat molecules. On the other hand, red wine has a prominent tannin flavor best for red meat dishes containing herbs like anise, making the meat taste richer and softer.

We recommend using a medium to full-bodied wine that isn’t too sweet. Avoid chardonnays since this can become astringent and bitter once reduced. Also, avoid bold wines like Shiraz, which alter the flavor of your dishes.

5. Whiskey

We often interchange cognac and whiskey with one another when needing a good substitute, whether in drinks or dishes.

Note that whiskey is sharper and more astringent than cognac, so we recommend using less whiskey than required when adding sweet and savory dishes.

Light whiskey is best for seafood or spicy food, while vital seafood is excellent for protein-rich meals with high-fat content.

6. Bourbon

Bourbon has such a boozy strength with a spicy finish and warm oak, caramel, and vanilla notes. However, it has an entirely different taste compared to cognac. It’s a kind of American whiskey from the French Bourbon dynasty, produced from grain through fermentation and distillation. (*)

While it may not work best in cocktails, it’s still possible to use it in certain drinks like the Sidecar. You can use it in savory sauces, using a 1:1 ratio with two teaspoons of fruit juice for added freshness.

Learn more: Does Bourbon Go Bad? How Long Can It Last?

7. Rum

Rum is just as strong as cognac, though it has varying flavors.

It’s a bit sweeter than cognac and carries flavor notes of vanilla.

We like using rum as a great cognac substitute in desserts, using an identical amount. However, we suggest adding a tablespoon of water or apple juice to lessen the oaky notes.

Learn more:

The Best Non-Alcoholic Cognac Substitutes

There are specific reasons why you may prefer a non-alcoholic cognac substitute. Whether it’s for ethical, religious, or personal reasons, other ingredients capture the flavor and texture recipes need.

Choose among any of these non-alcoholic alternatives:

1. Fruit Juice

Use a juice such as white grape juice or orange extract to replace cognac. There are more fruit juices to try, and we recommend using apple, apricot, or peach juice.

Using fruit juice is an excellent replacement for cognac in sweet recipes, though you can use it in gravies and sauces, too. If you want to add more acidity to your dish, add a bit of apple cider vinegar, lemon juice, or cooking wine.

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2. Brandy Extract

This ingredient is a more concentrated version of traditional brandy, a popular choice for replacing Cognac with red meat dishes with brown gravy and French-style cakes.

Use one teaspoon of non-alcoholic brandy extract for each tablespoon of brandy or cognac.

3. Cooking Wine and Sugar

Cooking wine mixed with a sweetener, such as sugar or honey, can be used as a replacement for cognac.

It may not give cognac the exact flavor, but it reproduces a similar finish.

When you cook for some time, the alcohol content will mostly disappear, working well with gravy, desserts, sauces, or deglazing.

Avoid adding too much sugar if your cooking wine is already too sweet.

Frequently Asked Questions

Of course, we’ve got more in store for you to increase your cooking knowledge! Here are more things to learn about cognac and its uses in cooking:

1. What is cognac?

Cognac comes from Cognac, France, a double-distilled brandy with 40% alcohol by volume. Cognac’s production process consists of dry, thin, and acidic white wine from specific wine-growing regions.

When the grapes are pressed, they undergo a 3-week fermentation process, then distilled twice. It will be aged in oak casks for at least two years before being packaged and out for selling.

2. How can I use cognac in my food?

We love consuming cognac as an alcoholic drink, whether served neat or with small amounts of ice or water.

You can pair the drink with chocolate, cheese, duck, sushi, glazed pork, and the like.

Cognac is also very versatile and can be used for the following dishes and drinks:

  • Traditional lemonade
  • Cocktails
  • Sauce for veal and steak
  • Desserts for a richer flavor
  • Sauteed mushrooms or vegetables
  • Creamy pasta
  • Beef, chicken, and seafood dishes

3. What does cognac do in food?

Cognac can add a bit of an alcoholic kick to your cocktails and intensify the flavors of the ingredients. When using it for cooking, a splash of cognac will give dishes a richer flavor, whether used in sweet or savory dishes.

Fortunately, the cognac substitutes mentioned above help achieve the same purpose, though with slight differences in taste and texture, as mentioned. Since cognac can get quite expensive and given its high alcoholic content, it might be wiser to use a cognac alternative, especially when you don’t use cognac often. 

Wrapping It Up

You won’t have to hassle yourself looking for cognac if you run out.

You can replace cognac with ingredients you can find in grocery stores, whether with or without alcohol!

We hope you found an excellent cognac substitute based on our list above. Create a delicious dish with any of these to get that distinct flavor.

Good luck with your recipe, and have fun cooking!

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