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12 BEST Brandy Substitutes + 2 To Avoid

I’ve personally taste-tested a variety of brandy substitutes to find the best one for every cooking or baking occasion.

Whether you’re on the hunt for the closest flavor match, in need of a last-minute pantry substitute, or seeking an alternative tailored to your specific dietary requirements, rest assured that I’ve got you covered.

Whiskey and rum are my top alternatives for brandy. But if you have a couple bucks to spare, splurge on a Cognac bottle. Looking a non-alcoholic alternative? Brandy extract mixed with water is the way to go. Apple juice also works, especially when mixed with a splash of beef stock for savory dishes.

Ready? Let’s jump right in.

The experiment

I made different batches of classic steak Diane sauce to try various brandy substitutes.

Brandy is a distilled liquor made from fruit-based wine. It has a subtly sweet, fruity flavor and has an ABV of 35-60% or 80 proof.

There is no exact replacement for this liquor, but I found a few substitutes that could get the job done.  

Here are the substitutes I tested and my verdicts:

SubstitutesSubstitute DirectionsVerdict
WhiskeyReplace in a 1:1 ratio10/10
RumReplace in a 1:1 ratio10/10
Brandy Extract + waterReplace in a 1:1 ratio9/10
Fruit JuiceReplace in a 1:1 ratio9/10
CognacReplace in a 1:1 ratio9/10
Grape Jelly + AcidReplace 1 cup brandy with ¾ cup grape jelly + ½ cup acid8/10
BourbonReplace in a 1:1 ratio8/10

Common uses of brandy and the best substitutes

Here are some popular ways to use brandy and the best substitutes for those situations:

  • For sauces and deglazing: Try using whiskey, rum, brandy extract and water, or fruit juice. Cognac is also a good option but is pretty expensive. Bourbon also works but may be a bit sweeter. 
  • For poaching/flambeing: Try using whiskey, rum, Cognac, or bourbon.
  • For cocktails: Try using whiskey, rum, Cognac, or bourbon.
  • For baking (e.g fruit cakes): Try using whiskey, rum, Cognac, or brandy extract mixed with water for alcohol free option.


You’re probably no stranger to whiskey.

It shares some similarities with brandy, but has a more earthy, complex flavor with notes of oak and malt. It also has a heavier ‘alcohol taste’ (but you won’t notice this too much if you’re cooking with the spirit).

Brandy is sweeter and lighter.

That said, whiskey will mesh well in pretty much any recipe that calls for brandy. And it’s an easy 1:1 swap.

Pro-tip: If you’re apprehensive about the earthy notes, choose a smoother, sweeter variant like Irish whiskey.

How to substitute: replace brandy in a 1:1 ratio with whiskey.


Craving something sweeter than brandy? Rum has your back! 

This liquor comes from fermented sugarcane products, which gives it those whispers of molasses and caramel. 

I used dark rum for my steak Diane sauce, and it was delicious. But I recommend using light rum for desserts and cocktails. 

It has a more subtle flavor that won’t overpower the other ingredients in your baking. 

How to substitute: replace brandy in a 1:1 ratio with rum.

Brandy extract + water

Brandy extract combined with water is your savior when you want the essence of brandy without the alcohol. 

Or if you don’t want to buy a whole bottle of brandy to use a few tablespoons.

The flavor won’t be as rich and layered as the real deal, but it will infuse a subtle sweetness into your dish. 

Pro-tip: enhance this substitute by adding a teaspoon of apple juice (or one of these apple juice substitutes) to your extract and water blend for a richer flavor.

And if you don’t have brandy extract but do have a fruit extract such as apple, apricot, peach, grape or even cherry – these can work in a pinch.

How to substitute: replace brandy in a 1:1 ratio with a mixture of brandy extract and water.

Fruit juice

Don’t have brandy extract? Stick with a carton of fruit juice instead!

You can go for apple, pear, apricot, or even white grape juice. It all boils down to what fruity notes you think would go best with the rest of your dish.

A hack I found in a cooking forum suggested mixing the juice with a splash of beef stock to round out the flavor when you’re adding it to something savory.

I tried this with me steak Diane sauce and was surprised how well it worked.

How to substitute: replace in a 1:1 ratio with fruit juice.

Grape jelly + acid

Here’s a substitute that may surprise you – grape jelly combined with a splash of acid, such as lemon juice or vinegar. 

It might seem unconventional, but it works nicely in cooked dishes (not cocktails, though!).

The grape jelly lends the sweet, fruity undertones that brandy typically contributes to a dish, while the acid counterbalances it with a sharp tang.

Of course it’s alcohol-free too!

Pro-tip: add the lemon juice once off the heat if you’re making a cream-based dish (like the steak Diane sauce) to prevent it from curdling. 

How to substitute: 1 cup brandy = ¾ cup grape jelly + ½ cup acid (I used lemon juice)


Cognac is a variant of brandy first produced in a French town with the same name. 

What sets it apart from other brandy varieties is that it’s made from specific white grapes grown in France. You’ll get the baseline flavors of brandy with added sweet, spicy, and bitter notes. 

This substitute gave my steak Diane sauce a deeper, richer flavor I couldn’t get enough of! 

The catch? This spirit is a bit on the pricey side, so it’s best saved for a special occasion.

How to substitute: replace brandy in a 1:1 ratio with cognac.


Bourbon (a type of whiskey) is another alcoholic alternative you can try in place of brandy. 

It lacks the fruity notes because it’s made from a mixture of grains (called mash) instead of fruit.

But it still delivers a delightful sweetness, along with caramel and vanilla notes. 

Psst… you can also try mixing it with a splash of vermouth (sweet or dry) to bring it closer to the flavor of brandy.

How to substitute: replace brandy in a 1:1 ratio with bourbon.

Other substitutes to consider

The list above are my top picks for brandy substitutes, but here are some other options you can use if you have them: 

  • Wine – if you want to maintain the fruity complexity of brandy without using hard liquor, wine is an excellent choice (did you know brandy is just distilled wine?). It can provide a similar depth of flavor, particularly if you opt for a rich, full-bodied red wine. I only recommend this for cooking sauces and stews though, not baking.
  • Sherry or port – sherry possesses a similar depth and sweetness to brandy, with a distinct nutty flavor that can add an interesting spin on your dish (it’s particularly good in stroganoff). Go for dry sherry for cooking, and sweet sherry for baking.
  • Metaxa – this Greek spirit is actually a blend of brandy and wine, making it a perfect fit as a brandy substitute (it’s just not that easy to find).
  • Golden raisins + water – Not the best substitute, but this works in a pinch. You mash the raisins to create a fruity, non-alcoholic liquid you can use to in the place of brandy.

Substitute to avoid

While I was researching for the best brandy substitutes, I saw lot of blogs mention gin and tequila.

While these work chemically to replace brandy, the only things they have in common are the fact they’re an alcohol really!

They didn’t taste nice in my sauce (especially the gin), and I can’t imagine they’d go well with the warm flavors brandy is usually paired with.


What to substitute brandy with in sangria

Brandy isn’t essential to a tasty sangria, so you can just leave it out. But if you want to replace it try using an orange liquor like Triple sec or Grand Marnier to replicate the sweetness. You can also use whiskey or rum.

What to substitute brandy with in stroganoff

The best substitutes for brandy in stroganoff are dry sherry (make sure it’s dry), wine, or port. If you want to skip the alcohol completely, use a few drops of Worcestershire sauce to help balance out the rich and creamy sauce.

What to substitute brandy with in fruit cake

If i’m out on brandy, I’ll always swap in some whiskey or rum instead. The flavors will be ever so slightly different but nothing drastic. Sherry, Maderia, or port will also work well. Use apple or orange juice for a non-alcoholic option.

Although be aware that if you use fruit juice, the cake might not keep as well.

11 Best Brandy Substitutes + 2 To Avoid

I tested loads of brandy substitutes to find the best one.
4.50 from 2 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Ingredient
Cuisine: French
Keyword: brandy substitutes, substitutes for brandy
Prep Time: 7 minutes
Total Time: 7 minutes
Servings: 1 person
Calories: 220kcal


  • 1 cup whiskey
  • 1 cup rum
  • 1 cup brandy extract + water
  • 1 cup fruit juice, add a splash of beef stock (optional)
  • 1 cup cognac
  • ¾ cup grape jelly + ½ cup acid
  • 1 cup bourbon


  • Cook your meal according to the recipe.
  • Add your chosen brandy substitute at the appropriate cooking time.
  • Mix until thoroughly combined and continue with the recipe.


Serving: 1cup | Calories: 220kcal

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