Can You Substitute Rum for Brandy?

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Different liquors that are somewhat close in flavor, texture and sometimes appearance can successfully substitute for each other without significantly affecting the final dish or mixed drink. Brandy and rum, though these two liquors have quite different reputations in the drinking community -- brandy as an elegant after-dinner drink and rum as a tropical party starter -- aren't as different as you might think. Whether concocting cocktails or prepping dinner, different types of rum may substitute for brandy.

Brandy, You're a Fine Girl

Brandy, distilled from wine, is a liquor and not a liqueur. The spirit has a moderate to high alcohol content with a proof range from 70, or 35 percent alcohol by volume, to 120, or 60 percent alcohol by volume. Brandies come from grapes, various fruits like apples, pears and plums, and grape pomace, which is grape skins, twigs and other leftovers after the winemaking process. Brandy, although often sipped slowly from snifters as a digestif, finds its way into foods such fondues and cocktails such as the brandy Alexander.

Rum Fun

Whereas brandy's known for its sophistication, rum has a more relaxed and carefree reputation. The rum family encompasses a wide variety of types, including light, dark and spiced as well as many different infused and flavored options. Rum, distilled from sugarcane juice or molasses, is both sweet and powerful, with proofs typically from 80 to 151, though a few rums on the market have proofs as high as 180. Rum makes its way into many signature drinks, such as mojitos and daiquiris, but the liquor also is an ingredient in dishes such as bananas Foster.

Successful Substitutions

Different types of rum may substitute for brandy in both drinks and dishes, though the final flavors might be slightly altered. Some brandy drinks have rum versions, like the rum sidecar, which is a 1-to-1 substitution of brandy with light rum. Substitute brandy with light rum when you want the rum to disappear into the other flavors and pour dark rum when you'd like to accent the molasses flavor of the liquor, like substituting rum in a pots de creme. Flavored rums such as cherry and pear may substitute for the corresponding flavored brandies; however, the resulting creations will be a bit sweeter, so cut back on the other sweeteners. Cachaca, a Brazilian sugar cane liquor akin to rum, will also successfully substitute grappa, pomace brandy -- though here, you would want to add some extra sweetness because cachaca has strong, harsh flavors.

Other Choices

Rum isn't the only thing that can successfully substitute for brandy in food and drink. Other ingredients, both alcoholic and non-alcoholic, may do in a pinch. Whiskeys and bourbons, though usually stronger than brandy, will mimic the sophisticated liquor's flavor profile, but with a little more bite. Brandy and vanilla extracts, either with or without alcohol, give your creations the right flavors, but only add a few drops instead of ounces. Juices with flavors corresponding to different flavored brandies, such as apple and cherry, also give prepared dishes and cocktails the needed flavors.