Brandy is a spirit made by distilling grapes to a higher proof than they achieve as wine. The name brandy comes from the Dutch word brandewijn, meaning “burnt wine”. The name is apt as most brandies are made by applying heat, originally to open flames, to wine. Alcohol has a lower boiling point than water thus, it can be boiled off while the water portion of the wine remains in the still. Heating a liquid to separate components with different boiling points is called heat distillation. Most brandy is made from actual grape wine, though some may also be made from the pulpy mixture of stems and seeds left after grapes are pressed, and some is made from the fermented juices of other fruits. Brandy has been an extremely popular drink for hundreds of years and is most often enjoyed as an after-dinner drink. It is often suggested that brandy should be warmed slightly, using a candle or small flame, before drinking it. This causes the vapors to become much stronger and the alcohol to become more liquid, an effect many people enjoy. This method, however, tends to overpower many of the subtle tastes and textures of brandy, and so many connoisseurs recommend treating brandy like any other wine, and drinking it at room temperature or slightly cooler.
Some brandy, most notably the Italian variety known as grappa, is made using the seeds, stem, and residue pulp left over from pressing grapes into juice for wine. This mash is then fermented, and the remaining pomace is turned into brandy, which is usually referred to simply as pomace brandy. Brandy may also be made using fruits other than grapes, such as cherry, apricot, plums, and apples. These fruit brandies usually bear a strong flavor of the fruit they represent and are often strengthened using fruit extracts or sweetening syrups. Popular fruit brandies include the cherry-flavored Kirsch from Germany, the apple-flavored Calvados from France, and the plum-flavored Mirabelle from France.