When cooking with wine or other booze does the alcohol have an affect on the cooking process?

Example: deglazing a pan or making a wine-based sauce. My understanding is that the alcohol evaporates quickly, so the booze is mostly there to add flavor and act as a liquid medium, and thus substitutible by another liquid, e.g. stock. Is there more going on than this?


2 Answers 2


Alcohol serves two functions, depending on your recipe: It is a solvent for certain compounds that do not dissolve as readily in water alone, and it is a mild acid. The former reason is why the "alla vodka" sauce uses vodka (the alcohol boosts the tomato flavor, completely overwhelming the subtle flavor of the vodka itself). The latter is why many cooks add a shot of brandy to beef stew shortly before serving, to "brighten" the flavor.

By the way, while much of the alcohol cooks off, unless you cook your sauce nearly dry, a good bit will remain. For a very boozy sauce (like the glaze for cherries jubilee), many cooks ignite the sauce to accelerate the removal of excess alcohol, but even then, a small amount will remain behind.

  • 2
    I would dispute the "mild acid" claim. Alcohol isn't acidic in itself, and while some alcoholic beverages are acidic to some degree (beer, wine), it certainly isn't due to their ethanol content.
    – rumtscho
    Dec 26, 2011 at 15:24
  • @rumtscho: I'll yield to your point that the pure chemical ethyl alcohol isn't itself the source of the acidity, but the reason for adding wine, beer, or liquor is in large part due to the acid content, so there really isn't much point in distinguishing them. Dec 26, 2011 at 21:23

The alcohol aids in extracting flavour enhancing compounds which may be more soluble in alcohol than in water.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.