What is the difference between Cognac, Armagnac, Rum, Bourbon, Whiskey when using to flambe?

Since I am now into to flambe and its spectacular effects and tastes - a new series of questions. How much should I spend on Cognac to burn and is Armagnac any different in the flambe process? Do whiskey and bourbon and rum have different flavors and how to choose when flambeing?

  • Posted by: SKK
  • April 3, 2011


pierino April 4, 2011
Usuba Dashi's advice reminds of a Rachael Ray episode when she added "two glugs" of vodka to her "You Won't Be Single for Long Sauce". Well, you won't be single for long because you will be dead.
usuba D. April 4, 2011
And for safety sake, and I talk from first hand experience, having put out the flames on a chef when pouring brandy from bottle to a pan and the bottle exploded all over said person . . . NEVER POUR DIRECTLY FROM BOTTLE TO A PAN NEAR AN OPEN FLAME!
ChefJune April 4, 2011
Greenstuff wrote a really expansive description! I agree with using a good-but-not-expensive brandy for flaming when Cognac or Armagnac are called for. There are some good French ones, and also Spanish. The Spanish ones have a deeper flavor that would more liekly correspond to the depth of flavor lent by Armagnac.

In Burgundy they often flambe with Marc de Bourgogne, but here that would be very costly.
Greenstuff April 4, 2011
Ditto, I hate to think of sending Armagnac up in flames. But my substitution for it would not be random--I'd go for something related, like maybe a relatively inexpensive Spanish brandy. The brandies (including Armagnac) and the whiskey, bourbon, and rum you mention, all caramelize when burned, and that's a nice thing. But think--do you want the rummy overtones? Or bourbon-like ones? Do you want the caramel plus a little orange--that's where Grand Marnier or another brandy plus orange option comes in. Depends what you're making.

Other options do not caramelize but can add different flavors. As Pierino said, pastis is great with seafood (and also with chicken and rabbit), dishes where you might like an anise flavor. It's maybe not so great with beef. In another direction, I've put more Chartreuse on fire than my pocketbook would recommend. But those herby overtones are really special--again for chicken and rabbit, but not for beef. Kirsh and other clear liquids? Personally, I think they're best for desserts. You could probably convince me of some exceptions.

I've been thinking about this a lot since the setting things on fire contest. These would be my rules for someone just starting to set fire to their food: First: Read a number of other people's recipes. See what a range of people do. Second: Think, "would I be likely to like this in a non-flamed drink?", and then Third: Start to experiment.

SKK April 3, 2011
Thank you
pierino April 3, 2011
Well, they all catch fire the same way. But it depends on the flavor you want to extract. Setting an expensive armagnac ablaze would not be my first choice but that's up to you. The decision should be based on the protein in the flambe---fish, flesh or fowl. Yes, all these spirits will impart different but subtle flavors. Pastis goes well with shellfish; shrimp, lobster etc. Just an example.
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