The Brandy Alexander is something of a forgotten cocktail, a mere impression of the shadow of the monumental nightcap it once was. Most likely this is due to the Icarian fall of brandy as a liquor – believe it or not, prior to Prohibition brandy was top dog. After the Volstead Act went into place, logistical difficulties with both smuggling and grape growing prevented brandy from becoming the underground sensations that were the easily imported whisky and the clandestinely produced gin. The rich kept a taste for it, but by the time Prohibition ended its popularity had significantly waned in the general population; and before you know it vodka entered the scene, forever changing American liquor choices and leaving brandy fully in the dust.
Testament to brandy’s low popularity is its price – in case you’ve never been over to the domestic brandy section (which I hazard many people haven’t), it is dirt cheap. Since cognac’s mercurial rise in the 90s, domestic brandy has had a continuing reason to remain in low demand. If you’ve read any of my other pieces you’ll know I had a dim view of name brand hype – I judge on taste alone – and I have to say it’s absolutely criminal that American brandies are so cheap. Let market forces be your friend, ignore what rappers mention in their songs, and fondly think of capitalism as you sip your deceptively cheap fine spirits. Now let’s get on to the recipe.
1 ½ oz brandy
1 oz crème de cocoa
1 oz half and half (or to taste)
dust with cinnamon or nutmeg
optional: shake until frothy
This is a creamy dessert drink originally intended to be consumed after dinner, but feel free to break with tradition and drink it any time, much how “The Dude” sucks down White Russians. In many ways this is the spiritual ancestor of the White Russian, a product of its own time – brandy was the go-to spirit for cocktail making at the time, and Kahlua hadn’t even been invented yet. The Brandy Alexander isn’t as sweet as the White Russian thanks to the underlying girth and fire of the brandy, so think of it as a slightly (slightly) more masculine White Russian. It’s still very girl-friendly, and don’t order it at a bar if you’re attempting to maintain a manly persona.
I mixed mine up with Paul Masson Grande Amber VSOP, a double gold winner at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition. It’s a piece of work that deserves to be drunk out of a snifter, but at $11 a bottle it’s hard to feel any remorse about covering it up in a cocktail. After cheaping out on the main ingredient, I went all in on my liqueur and got this excellent French crème de cocoa. It’s 50 proof, so it makes a significant addition to the alcohol content. This is a strong drink, but oh so sweet.
The traditional recipe calls for 1 oz each brandy and crème de cocoa, but I find that makes it far too sweet for my tastes. If you don’t like my way you can just add a little more liqueur and cream to make it 1:1:1 again.
Another idea for these ingredients: add coffee! Put 1 oz of each ingredient in a large coffee mug and top with coffee. I think you’ll like the results. Happy drinking!
-The Monster Lifestyle-