Produced in the town of Cognac in France, Cognac is an iconic type of brandy that is distilled from a specific blend of grapes. Related to Armagnac, Cognac is aged in oak barrels for at least two years, but unlike Armagnac, which is only distilled once, Cognac is distilled twice. Grades of Cognac include VS (Very Special, or at least two years old), VSOP (Very Special Old Pale, or at least four years old,) or Napoleon, XO (Extra Old, or at least six years old). Although it can be enjoyed alone, it is a culinary staple in both sweet and savory dishes. Use Cognac to enrich luxurious sauces and pair in meat recipes, or to add complex flavor to both sweet and savory dishes involving rich ingredients such as cheeses, nuts, figs, apples, pears, brown sugar and olives. Cognac also compliments chocolate desserts very well.
Armagnac, which is slightly drier and more flavorful, or American brandy can be used in the place of Cognac.