22-05-15 Brandy Alexander

This series highlights the International Bartenders Association (IBA) The Unforgettables cocktails. I have decided to work my way through this series of cocktails to investigate the classics as I teach myself mixology and build out my home bar.

As I build out the bar, I am adding bottles that I sure hope I have a lasting use for. Creme de cacao is one such ingredient. A month ago I would not have thought this would be in my bar at this point. But as I look through The Unforgettables, there are not that many one-off bottles. The more I read about this cocktail, the more I thought I would like it. What I know for certain is that my ex-wife would have loved this! This is the kind of drink I envisioned when I firs thought I would get into cocktails a few years back.

I am working my way through this list alphabetically. That is why Alexander is first. I’ve always heard this called a Brandy Alexander. As the IBA page states, the Alexander was originally a gin based cocktail. There are many riffs on it, the Grasshopper for instance. At some point brandy was subbed in for the gin and this classic was born.

Like many classic cocktails, the origin story is unknown. One theory is that the cocktail was invented to celebrate the wedding of Princess Mary (Queen Elizabeth’s aunt). The prevailing theory is that New York bartender Troy Alexander created this for an advertising campaign for the  Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad. Huh? you say. Well, the railroad promoted how clean its coal was *(this was the 1920s, folks!). A woman drinking a white drink on the railroad communicated the cleanliness of the trip.

Says Phoebe Snow
about to go
upon a trip to Buffalo
"My gown stays white
from morn till night
Upon the Road of Anthracite"

Yup, you read that correctly: Phoebe Snow. That name was reused years later for the stage name of Phoebe Ann Laub who scored a hit in my youth with Poetry Man.

Talk to me some more
You don't have to go
You're the poetry man
You make things all rhyme

I used A. de Fussigny cognac because that is what is in my bar. I picked that up on the advice of Sean, the Classic Cocktails Deconstructed teacher at Total Wine, who recommended this for The Sidecar. For the creme de cacao I picked up Tempus Fugit as the general consensus is that this is rich and lovely compared to the inexpensive well varieties. I used heavy cream that I have on hand for Beetle‘s mac & cheese. 🙂

And last evening is when I planned on making this. But alas, I wasn’t prepared. I hadn’t picked up nutmeg and by the time I got around to wanting to make this, I didn’t feel like going out. So, I began my day with yet another outing for ingredients for this. This is so unlike me, but it is what it is.



Recipe by Robert OwensCourse: The Unforgettables


Prep time


Cooking timeminutes

IBA recipe


  • 30 ml Cognac

  • 30 ml Crème de Cacao (Brown)

  • 30 ml Fresh Cream


  • Pour all ingredients into cocktail shaker filled with ice cubes.
  • Shake and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

John Lennon, during his Lost Weekend days, was introduced to this drink by Harry Nilsson. It didn’t go well that night, according to Lennon, as he, Nilsson, Ringo, and Pam Grier were all thumped from the Troubadour during a scuffle during the Smothers Brothers show.

I’m going where the sun keeps shining
Through the pouring rain
Going where the weather suits my clothes

Harry Nilsson. Everybody’s Talkin’

Yeah, I understand Lennon’s comment about milkshakes. This is in the Mudslide category. I guess this would have predated that by a several decades. But it is in that vein.

The creme de cacao and the brandy work well together. There’s a booziness to this, but then the cream reminds you this is a heavy drink. The nutmeg definitely adds a winter feel to it. That it is mid-May doesn’t make this feel out of season. I really see this being enjoy during summer on a warm evening. Perhaps the nutmeg would feel too wintry at that point, but I certainly think this could be enjoyed without it.

What I can attest to is that this is an easy drinking cocktail. Dangerously so. These go down smoothly. Be prepared to get up and make another. Frankly, I don’t see how these could be the cocktail of the evening with a group. Everyone will be sloppy right fast as there is no throttle on drinking these; they are just too yummy to slow down. Ouch!

Also blogged on this date . . .

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