Spirits & Liqueurs Brandy

The Best Cognac and Other Brandies at Any Price

(photo illustration: Laura Sant).

You know who knows best which bottles to buy? The people who pour and sell drinks—that’s who. We asked dozens of top bartending and spirits industry professionals to tell us which bottles they love and why.

Heads up: The numerical order below is not organized by importance or quality; it’s an alphabetical list, not a ranking. Prices are averages and can vary from state to state.

  • Argonaut Speculator Brandy ($35)

    “When I first tasted this, I thought, That's fruity. After a second taste, I thought, Wow, that's really fruity! That's what I like about this bottle. It's fresh, lively, fruit-forward and a nice complement to some other brandy styles.”—Franky Marshall, bartender and beverage director at New York City's Le Boudoir

  • Castarède VSOP Armagnac ($50)

    “This is a super dry, delicate, fruity brandy that shows stone fruit on the nose, classic tannic black tea and tobacco on the palate, with a peppery, bacon fatty finish.”—Zac Overman, beverage director and co-owner of Seattle's L'Oursin

  • Chateau Arton La Réserve Armagnac ($65)

    “It's floral, delicate and damn delicious. You need to have an Old Fashioned with La Reserve.”—Mike Strohm, lead bartender at Kansas City, Mo.'s The W

  • Christian Drouin Sélection Calvados ($35)

    “It's made with lots of pears and apples, which translate really well on the palate. It’s slightly peppery and dry, which makes it great as an everyday sipper or for cocktails.”—Brian Means, bartender at San Francisco's Pacific Cocktail Haven

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  • Daron Fine Calvados ($38)

    “You don't need to know this is grown in the premier site of Pays D'Auge. All you need to know is it’s an extraordinary value from an underappreciated spirit, which makes a fantastic cocktail and a perfect neat pour.”—Nathaniel David Smith, bartender at St. Paul, Minn.'s Hodges Bend and ambassador for Teeling Irish whiskey

  • Domaine d'Espérance XO Bas Armagnac ($85)

    “Claire de Montesquiou and her husband only distill once per year, filling a mere 28 barrels annually. It's a very slow distillation, and the finish here is just as long, with deep, rich fruit, salted butter and toffee.”—Overman

  • Fanny Fougerat Iris Poivré Cognac ($69)

    “This is an XO, which is not weighed down by all those years in oak. As the name suggests, it has a little spicy edge to it and is made without additives.”—Marshall

  • Frapin VSOP Cognac ($55)

    “I like best-kept secrets. I tend to go for the smaller brands. They don’t have the marketing dollars, but what they do have is a rich tradition, high-quality product, and heart and soul. Frapin VSOP is an exceptional cognac at any price point—hints of gingerbread, baked apples with richness and a touch of spice and sweetness. It’s a very satisfying cognac, a must-have.”—Joseph Pereira, bartender at Las Vegas' Electra

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  • Gran Duque De Alba Solera Gran Reserve Brandy ($40)

    “This beautiful Spanish brandy has an intense nose of raisins, chocolate and old leather. It’s great with cigars, with great caramel taste with hints of toffee and vanilla—a gem.”—Pereira

  • Hardy Cognac ($59)

    “Any of its expressions are just pure magic. Family-owned and passed down, it’s run by women. The bottles are beautiful and elegant, and the more ornate, the more rare it gets. It’s just a well-thought-out cognac, taste and packaging combined.”—Juyoung Kang, lead bartender at Las Vegas' Dorsey

  • H by Hine Cognac ($36)

    “The raisin and caramel are present and emulate a cognac from a longer aging process.”—Lucinda Sterling, managing partner and bartender at New York City's Middle Branch

  • Hennessy Black Cognac ($53)

    “This cognac is bright and beautiful with true richness—perfect for sipping or cocktails.”—Cari Hah, bar manager at Los Angeles' Big Bar

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  • Hennessy Paradis Cognac ($950)

    “It’s truly a unique taste—such an amazing long-lasting finish and a delicate blend of some of the most rare and aged eau-de-vie in the world.”—Yani Moraitis Frye, owner, operator and head bartender at Detroit's Bad Luck

  • Hennessy VSOP Privilège Cognac ($50)

    “I think this Hennessy is the best you can buy for the money, not only for a cocktail but great to have on hand for cooking/flambé.”—Hemant Pathak, bartender and bar manager at New York City's Junoon

  • Hine Antique Cognac ($165)

    “I love how this bottling is done—very elegant. It has a delicious taste with a light and delicate bouquet, with hints of vanilla and spice.”—Pathak

  • Hine Triomphe Cognac ($580)

    “It’s hands down still my favorite cognac. It has lots of stewed apricot and peach aromas, and rich toffee, chocolate and some floral qualities like jasmine as well.”—Means

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  • Laird's Applejack ($21)

    “It’s a wild, unrefined apple brandy that has a heartier apple flavor—that’s why I like this as part of my cocktail.”—Pathak

  • Landy VS Cognac ($30)

    “It’s a great well—presents extreme value for the price.”—Adam Fortuna, assistant general manager and sommelier at Grand Rapids, Mich.'s Reserve Wine & Food

  • Lustau Solera Gran Reserva Brandy de Jerez ($36)

    “It’s a great Spanish brandy for something a little different than the norm.”—Brett Esler, barman at Austin's Whisler's

  • Marquis de Saint-Loup Calvados AOC 15 Year ($98)

    “It’s a delicate, dry, beautiful calvados with notes of toasted nuts, pear and apple skin.”—Overman

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  • Park Borderies Cognac ($60)

    “It’s at a great price point for a single-vineyard cognac that has great tasting notes of butterscotch, vanilla and apricot. It’s just really well-balanced and complements a robust cigar to a bittersweet dessert.”—Kang

  • Philbert Rare Cask Finish Sauternes Petite Champagne Cognac ($48)

    “This is another interesting bottling from some forward-thinking producers. It took just one sip for me to know I liked this cognac, but trust that I didn't stop at just one sip.”—Marshall

  • Pierre Ferrand 1840 Cognac ($41)

    “Specifically designed to be used in cocktails, this still-sippable cognac offers proof and balance enough to please the Sidecar or Brandy Old Fashioned lover in your life.”—Smith

  • Rémy Martin 1738 Accord Royal Cognac ($77)

    “It’s such a beautiful cognac with not just the aromatic sweetness of cognac but a delicious spicy backbone, as well.”—Hah

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  • Singani 63 Brandy ($31)

    “My first interest in spirits was how culture is expressed through ceremonial and celebratory beverages, particularly those that were not available in the U.S. and ones I had to pick up in my travels. I’m happy that because of the cocktail boom we are now able to taste and utilize amazing products like this high-altitude Bolivian wine-based spirit. Use it as a gin, vodka, pisco or clear spirit substitute, and trust me, you'll enjoy the results.”—Smith