In cooking most alcohol quickly evaporates, but there will always be a trace amount, so if you belong to a religious sect that strictly bans alcohol, you have a judgement call to make. Since ripe fruit and fermented foods often contain some alcohol, that may be your justification, but if your Imam spots you in Trader Joe's buying booze, you may be in for a scolding.
Beer and Ale
In current usage, "Ale" refers to a beer where fermentation is at room temperature and at the top of the vat, while "Beer" is fermented cold with the yeast sinking to the bottom of the vat. Practically, there's not much difference. The alcohol content of beer ranges from less than 3% to about 14% by volume, but averages just under 5% and is very rarely over 7% in North America. Non-alcoholic beer is less than 0.5% alcohol by volume.
Beer is used in cooking in all countries that drink beer, but is most
prevalent throughout Europe. Beer comes in many shades, from very light
amber to nearly black, the coloring coming mostly from the roasting of
the malted (sprouted) grain used (usually barley). Any recipe that calls
for cooking with beer should specify the shade to use. As with other
ingredients, always select a quality beer for cooking.
Subst: There is no substitute for beer, but that's not a
problem because beer is easily available worldwide (except, perhaps, in a
few remote Islamic villages), and fairly easy to make yourself should the
Cognac, the most famous brandy, was invented by a Dutch factor in France
as a way to concentrate poor quality wine so he could afford wartime insurance
rates for shipping to Holland. His employers quickly discovered the error of
his instruction to dilute it back to wine. When they figured out what he was
doing the French ran him out of town and took over his stills. Cognac is still
made from inferior wine..
Subst: Other brandies can be used but won't have the distinctive
apple flavor desirable for Norman cuisine. Pear brandy would probably be the
closest but is generally less available than Calvados.
This wine is called for in thousands of Chinese recipes. The most accepted varieties are made in Shaoxing on the eastern coast of China. About 110,000 tons are made very year and it is commonly and economically available in North America. This wine is aged underground for years in large ceramic jars, but it is put up in regular wine bottles for export. Most bottles I've seen here in Los Angeles are labeled Shao Hsing or Shao Hsing Hua Tiao
Huangjiu is made in dry (Gan), semi-dry (Ban Gan), semi-sweet (Ban Tian), sweet (Tian) and extra sweet (Nong Tian). The main export to North America is Dry, with some Semi-dry sold for drinking at special occasions.
For cooking, select a good drinkable wine. Suitable varieties are available here in Los Angeles for between US $3.00 and $4.00 for a 750 ml bottle. More expensive versions in ceramic jars are also available, but more for drinking than for cooking. Select wine with an alcohol content around 17% so it can be stored unrefrigerated. Caution: China also makes some regular grape wines and puts them up in similar bottles, so read the label. Generally, just a tablespoon or two are used in a recipe.
Do Not Use Chinese "cooking" wine, available in clear and tinted
varieties. This is inferior wine to start with and heavily salted to avoid
paying the liquor tax. Subst: The most acceptable substitute
is a dry (Fino) sherry. Although also made from rice, Japanese Sake is not
considered an acceptable substitute.
Details and Cooking.
Gin - London Dry - [Bombay Gin]
London Gin is made by re-distilling grain alcohol along with juniper berries and a wide variety of other botanicals. These may include any of lemon, bitter orange peel, anise, angelica root and seed, orris root, licorice root, cinnamon, almond, cubeb, savory, lime peel, grapefruit peel, dragon eye, saffron, baobab, frankincense, coriander, grains of paradise, nutmeg and cassia bark. Alcohol content is generally 40% or somewhat higher.
Gin isn't used for cooking nearly as much as beer, wine, or brandy, but it does occasionally show up, primarily in meat recipes. Subst: vermouth is much lower in alcohol but has plenty of botanicals - different but often workable.Guys: If you think that hot date may go "all the way", avoid gin like the plague - it can negatively impact performance. While I discovered this independently (fortunately not disastrously), it has also been noticed by others. "Gin ... it's inclined to affect me prowess" - Flanders and Swann Have some Madeira, M'Dear.
Gin - Jenever - [Hollandes,
Gin was invented by Dutch physician Franciscus Sylvius, who wished to make a stomach potion exploiting the medicinal properties of Juniper Berries. He made an extraction using distilled alcohol, put it on the market - and soon found that stomach problems seemed to be far more prevalent in Amsterdam than he had anticipated. Thus was invented the first commercial hard liquor. Discovering it in Holland during the Eighty Years War, English soldiers called it "Dutch Courage".Do Not use Jenever in mixed drinks. Do Not use Jenever in recipes unless it is specifically called for. Jenever is kept in the freezer and taken in a full shot glass brought directly from the freezer - sometimes with a chaser of lager beer.
Real Madeira is made only on the islands of Madeira, a Portuguese possession far off the western coast of North Africa. This wine undergoes a high temperature aging imitating a long sea voyage through the tropics. It was hugely popular in warmer regions before refrigeration because it is practically immortal in the bottle and lasts well even after opening. From this legacy it is called for in many European recipes as well as those from the U.S. Southeast and Brazil.
This is a fortified wine with neutral grape spirits added at the end of
fermentation or at various stages during fermentation depending
on the sweetness desired. Alcohol is about 18% by volume. Dry Madeira is
fermented off the skins and will be amber in color. Sweet versions are
fermented on the skins to balance sweetness with acid and tannin, so they
will be red. It is the dryer Madeiras that are normally used for cooking.
Details and Cooking.
I find the US $4.00 brands stocked by Trader Joe's fine for cooking and affordable in the quantities needed. The $17.00 bottles from the local liquor merchant are superior for sipping, but it's fiscally painful to pour a whole bottle into the stew pot. The San Antonio Winery in Los Angeles makes a California Marsala, but it's not as common as their California Madeira, perhaps because the Sicilian product is quite available.At about 18% alcohol by volume Marsala can be kept unrefrigerated for some weeks in a cool place away from light. Longer for sweet than dry, and longer for cooking wines than for sipping wines. Subst: a medium dry sherry such as an Amontillado or a cooking grade Madeira are acceptable.
Actually real mirin is very difficult to find even here in Los Angeles -
but there are plenty of brands of "Mirin style" concoctions. That's not
really a problem, basically it's just a sweetener.
Port is often used in cooking, particularly for port sauces. A cooking
port can be kept unrefrigerated in a cool place away from light for a few
months, but a fine sipping port should be handled more carefully,
refrigerated if to be kept more than a few hours and consumed in short
Rum - [Demon Rum (U.S. prohibitionists):
Rumbullion, Kill-Devil (early Caribbean); Bumbo (Pirates)]
Rum is a distilled liquor made from sugar cane molasses. In the 18th and early 19th centuries, New England was a major distiller of rum, making it from vast quantities of molasses from sugar cane grown by slaves in the Caribbean. Some of this rum found its way back to Africa, sold to buy slaves for shipment to the Caribbean, but the main "Triangular Trade" was with Europe, not New England. Before the American Revolution every man, woman and child in the colonies consumed an average of 3 gallons of rum per year (less for children with adult males taking up the slack).
Today Jamaica and other Caribbean islands are the most prominent producers. Rum comes in many quality grades and two types, white and gold. Some use white rum for mixed drinks, but for cooking and sipping golden rum, aged in barrels, is more flavorful and far superior.
in the U.S. the most prominent culinary uses of rum are in sweet baked
goods, including the traditional but infamously inedible fruit cake.
Real Sherry is made in and around Jerez, Spain, and only in Spain, by a complex "Solara" system where new wine is put in the top barrels of a stack of barrels and slowly works its way to the bottom as it ages. It is made in many quality grades and prices and in several steps from dry to sweet. The photo shows dry (Fino) on the left, medium dry (Amontillado) in the center and very sweet Cream Sherry on the right. Most Cream Sherry is exported to England where sweet wines are highly appreciated.
Sherry is one of the premier wines for use in cooking and can stand in for some other fortified wines that may not be so easy to find.
For drinking, fine grades of Fino and Manzanilla should be consumed
quickly, as for regular wines, but lesser grades suitable for cooking, having
a 17% alcohol level, can be stored in a cool place away from light for
a few months.and still be good for cooking. Sweeter grades can be stored
longer than dry. Details and Cooking.
It comes in two varieties: dry and sweet. Due to its extensive use in
martinis, dry vermouth is very common in North America and sweet vermouths
very much less so. In cooking it is used similarly to white wine, but has
a more distinct botanical flavor. At 18% alcohol by volume it can be stored
unrefrigerated in a cool place away from light, but the aromatics may fade
Wine - Dry
Always use a good drinkable wine, never a "cooking" wine which is probably of poor quality. Here in California very drinkable wines can be had for between US $3.00 and $4.00 per 750ml bottle, probably about $1.00 higher elsewhere in the country. Once opened, a recorked bottle of wine will keep for at least a week refrigerated, but in most households someone will drink it long before then. Moderate wine drinking has been shown more healthful than avoiding alcoholic beverages.
Subst: There is no substitute for real wine, but that's
not a problem because wine is easily available worldwide (except, perhaps,
in a few remote Islamic villages). In a household that simply does not drink
wine but wants some for cooking, a dry fortified wine such as Vermouth,
Madeira or Marsala can be kept on hand. A bit different, but workable in