My new favourite drink, the brandy sour.

I’m not a huge fans of cocktails. It’s not that I don’t enjoy the taste rather I find they slip down a bit too quickly. That’s part of the point, of course, a good cocktail should temper the fire and any rough edges in the spirit to make it dangerously easy to drink. Suddenly it’s gone and I want another. Before I know it it’s all gone a bit Harry Sellars from Father Ted:

Which is why I prefer to drink beer or wine or neat spirits. One is forced to drink slowly. This Christmas though my wife bought me a rather swanky silver-plated cocktail shaker so it would be silly not to put it into use. Also from my time writing a drink column for the Guardian, I have  an excess of spirits including a bottle of Cardinal Mendoza Brandy de Jerez. It’s a rather sweet brandy which I can only sip in minute quantities but it’s worth it for the most amazing oloroso sherry finish of nuts and molasses. It lacks the fruit and acidity of a good cognac but its failings can be remedied in the cocktailing (dread word!) process.

A sour is simply any spirit, lime or lemon juice and sugar syrup to balance the sour. Too much sugar and you ruin it. As this brandy is already very sweet it doesn’t need much.It worked dangerously well. The lemon juice brought the slightly cloying brandy to life and revealed fruit that I never noticed before, oranges etc and it made the finish seem even more nutty and delicious than before. Best of all, it refreshed, not bad for almost neat spirits. I drank two and then went on the rampage through Lewisham.

Ingredients: makes two small ones

Place two martini glasses in the freezer before you start.

4 shots of brandy de Jerez or any good smooth brandy. Probably not a good idea to use your best cognac

3 tablespoons of lemon juice

1 tablespoon of sugar syrup (2 parts dark sugar to 1 part water)

Add lots of ice to the shaker, add ingredients, shake vigorously and then strain into the cold martini glasses. Garnish with slice of lemon.

Drink quickly and then make another.


I discovered after making this drink that it’s the national drink of Cyprus made with local brandy. I’ve never trued Cypriot brandy but think it would be nice with Metaxa. I tried a version with orange bitters but it didn’t really need it. Angostura bitters might be nice, off to try now. 



About Henry

I’m a drinks writer. My day job is features editor at the Master of Malt blog. I also contribute to BBC Good Food, the Spectator and others. You can read some of my work here. I’ve done a bit of radio, given some talks and written a couple of books (Empire of Booze, The Home Bar and the forthcoming Cocktail Dictionary).
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