Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The Brandy Alexander Cocktail

Brandy Alexander Cocktail in Cocktail Glass with Nugmeg Garnish

A Chocolate Lover’s Delight

The Brandy Alexander is a celestial mix of cognac (or brandy), crème de cacao, and heavy cream. The crème de cacao gives the drink its distinct chocolate flavoring — one that’s not overwhelmingly strong, but definitely noticeable. The cream adds richness, and the cognac provides some grownup interest. This is a very smooth and mellow drink that barely seems alcoholic at all.

With its rich creaminess, the Brandy Alexander is perfect for the winter holiday season — a time of year when many of us are looking for decadent, festive cocktails that we might not consider drinking at other times of the year.

You can have a Brandy Alexander before dinner, although you might find it a bit heavy in that role.  But the drink is perfect after dinner — it’s almost a dessert in a glass!  It also works well as a weekend mid-afternoon tipple, best sipped while munching holiday goodies.

I know there are people in this world who don’t like chocolate.  If you happen to be one of them, stop reading right here:  You won’t like this cocktail.  But for the other 99% of us?  Yes, please.



Brandy Alexander Cocktail in Cocktail Glass

Recipe:  Brandy Alexander Cocktail

The Brandy Alexander derives from an earlier cocktail called simply the “Alexander.”  That drink is a mix of gin, crème de cacao (a chocolate-flavored liqueur), and heavy cream.  The Brandy Alexander just substitutes brandy for gin.  Presumably you could substitute other spirits if you prefer.  I haven’t done it, but I suspect this drink would be delicious made with dark or aged amber rum.  But I like the flavor of the classic Brandy Alexander, so that’s what I stick to.

My favorite recipe for this drink features equal parts of cognac, crème de cacao, and cream. This is also David Wondrich’s preferred formula. Other people think different. You can watch a video of Robert Hess making a Brandy Alexander using 3 parts cognac and 2 parts each of crème de cacao and cream.

Other mixsters favor 2 parts cognac to 1 part each of crème de cacao and cream. Still others like 1 part each of cognac and crème de cacao, and 2 parts of cream. That last one is really too rich to drink, IMO — but you may find it ideal. I’d suggest making the drink my way once. Then if you want to change it a bit to suit your taste buds, do so.

This recipe makes 1 cocktail, and takes about 5 minutes to prepare.

Ingredients
  • 1 ounce cognac or brandy (nothing too expensive — a moderately priced VSOP or even VO like St. Remy or Raynal works well)
  • 1 ounce crème de cacao (either white — clear — or  brown; see Notes)
  • 1 ounce heavy cream
  • a dusting of ground nutmeg as garnish (optional but attractive)
Procedure
  1. Combine all ingredients (except garnish) in a cocktail shaker half-filled with ice.  Shake vigorously for 20 to 30 seconds, until the drink is cold.  Be sure to shake well!  This helps increase the foaminess of the cream, which creates a more attractive drink.
  2. Strain into a cocktail glass (preferably one that has been chilled).
  3. Add a dusting of ground nutmeg if desired (freshly ground is particularly good), and serve.

Brandy Alexander Cocktail with Nugmeg Garnish, Overhead View

Notes
  • You can use either cognac or brandy when you make this drink.  Cognac is nothing more than brandy that is produced in the Cognac region of France.  (Brandy is what happens when you distill wine.)  I tend to prefer the flavor profiles of cognac, so that’s what I always buy.
  • People often think of cognac as expensive stuff served in a snifter that you enjoy after dinner.  Although you can buy very expensive cognac that is ideal in that role, you wouldn’t want to waste it on cocktails. 
  • You can buy perfectly decent cognac at a price similar to American brandy, and it’s well-suited for mixing in cocktails.  Shop around until you find one that you like.
  • Crème de cacao is bottled as either a white (clear) or brown liquid.  The flavor difference between them is very slight, and when mixed in this cocktail I can’t distinguish between the two.  I buy the white version because some other drinks that require crème de cacao are best made with that variety.  Brown crème de cacao will make a slightly darker-hued Brandy Alexander, which you might find attractive (all the pictures in this post were of drinks made with the white variety).
  • You can find crème de cacao at almost every liquor store, in the liqueur and cordial section.  Many brands cost around $10 per bottle.  I haven’t done extensive taste testing of the various brands, but DeKuyper is widely available and I find it to be of decent quality, as is Hiram Walker.  Marie Brizard is a good step up in quality, but costs as least twice as much.  Although it's wonderful, I stick to a less expensive brand in this drink because when mixed with the cream and cognac, much of the flavor difference is hard to detect.
  • BTW, when experimenting with the ratio of ingredients in this drink, do note that using equal parts of each ingredient results in a drink that’s fairly thick and creamy.  If you increase the amount of cognac, the texture of the drink will become thinner — still good, but IMO you lose a bit of mouth feel.
Two Brandy Alexander Cocktails in Cocktail Glasses

Drinking Dessert

Mrs. Kitchen Riffs took a sip of her Brandy Alexander and smiled.  “Delicious!  So smooth.  And so rich!” she said.  “But as much as I love the flavor, one of these is going to be enough.”

“It’s awfully good,” I agreed between slurps.  “But you wouldn’t want to drink this all the time.”

“It’s almost like sipping melted ice cream,” observed Mrs K R, her drink half gone. 

“Except for the alcohol part, which can catch up with you if you’re not careful,” I said.

“Fortunately, we only drink these once or twice a year, during the December festivities,” said Mrs K R, draining her glass.  “Too bad there isn’t something similar, with a bit less alcohol, for those who want to drink their dessert.”

“Be careful for what you wish for, grasshopper!” I said.  “There is indeed such a drink.  It has less alcohol than the Brandy Alexander, and it combines the great chocolate taste of this cocktail with mint.  Kind of like drinking an after-dinner mint.”

“When do I get to sample this concoction?” asked Mrs K R. 

“We’ll be posting about it next week,” I replied, “so you’ll be sipping it quite soon.”

“Grasshopper, eh?”

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65 comments:

  1. I used to work with a guy who didn't like chocolate. I thought it was the strangest thing I'd ever heard :-)
    I never knew the Brandy Alexander was a dessert-type drink. It looks so good!

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    1. Hi Kristy, you certainly could drink this any time, but it just seems better to me as a dessert drink. I've had it before dinner, and with pleasure, but it really is a bit too much for the taste buds when served then - I like something sharper and lighter before dinner. But that might just be me. ;-) Thanks for your comment.

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  2. I love the thought of sipping one of these mid-afternoon with some holiday treats! "Sipping melted ice cream" sounds lovely.

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    1. Hi Lisa, this is a terrific mid-afternoon drink. It might be better in that role than after dinner (it's fairly rich). Thanks for the comment.

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  3. When I am older this is on my list to try - DEFINITELY :)

    Cheers
    Choc Chip Uru

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    1. Hi Uru, you'll definitely like this cocktail — it has your name written all over it! You'll like next week's cocktail, too. Thanks for the comment.

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  4. Please tell me that when you make a Grasshopper, that you use plain mint ice cream or mint custard, white creme de cacao and your color optional of creme de menthe. It loses something in translation if you use vanilla ice cream or (shudder) ice milk or cream or the modern abomination of mint chocolate ice cream. Some people like their mint ice cream with out chocolate.

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    1. Hi Pete, no worries about the ice cream — I'm not using any! I make the classic version which doesn't use it(although I'm sure I'll include a recipe for an ice cream version as well; but the classic is far, far better). Thanks for the comment.

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  5. I'm not much of a drinker but this is my kind of drink. An alcoholic malt! YUM!

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    1. Hi Vicki, you barely taste the alcohol in this. But it's there! Thanks for the comment.

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  6. My grandmother used to LOVE this drink. Thanks for the memories :)

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    1. Hi Alyssa, it's a fun drink. Definitely worth having sometime, if for no other reason to think about your grandmother. Thanks for the comment.

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  7. I've never had one of these but your picture makes it look so enticing. I told you this before but again, it looks like it should be in a magazine. I love the simplicity!

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    1. Hi Chris, if you like chocolate and cream, you'll like this. And thanks so much for the kind words about the photography (as well as for commenting) — I do appreciate them.

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  8. This cocktail is meant for the holidays, John, and the nutmeg serves to underscore the point. It's been ages since I've had one but your description is just as I remember them. there's a "mouth feel" to the cocktail that most do not share. Thanks for sharing the recipe for a great cocktail. Now if I could only remember where I was when I was last served an Alexander. This may take some time ...

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    1. Hi John, it really is a great holiday drink! Mrs K R and I always have one (or two) every December; but then that's it for the year. Maybe a Brandy Alexander would help that memory problem? You know, kinda like returning to the scene of the crime . . . ;-) Thanks for commenting.

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  9. I am such a huge chocolate lover, I think this would be my new favorite cocktail for sure!

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    1. Hi Kristi, given your love for chocolate, this drink will definitely tickle your taste buds! Well worth trying. Thanks for the comment.

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  10. [warm laughter!] OMG: you took me back some 35-40 years! I can assure you [from actual experience unfortunately] that Brandy Alexanders were the IT drink to have after dinner - sugar and . . . , I cannot imagine having one before: it would be like having a chocolate souffle before oysters!!! Properly made: quite delightful - but instead of dessert and coffee and all else! A good Brandy Alexander is an experience to have on its very own after the savoury part has all finished . . . sorry, still grinning :) !

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    1. Hi Eha, I'm actually old enough to remember when these were pretty big. Of course I was a mere child, so I was only observing, but still. ;-) Thanks for taking time to comment.

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  11. Hey, let's not give away 'secrets' just some may read and remember :D !

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    1. Hi Eha, ;-) Everyone is so mesmerized with the idea of what is essentially a chocolate martini that they're beyond noticing anything else!

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  12. Just the name alone, "Brandy Alexander,'' makes me think I should be drinking this with elbow-length gloves on and my hair up in a chignon. Plus, who can resist any cocktail that has a lovely bit of cream in it?

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    1. Hi Carolyn, you paint such a lovely picture! And I, for one, can't resist a bit of cream in a cocktail, at least on occasion. Thanks for the comment.

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  13. I love creme de cacao and cream but I am not keen on Brandy. However, place it together with the former two and it's more than palatable. I agree about keeping it creamy - that's part of the beauty of Brandy Alexander.

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    1. Hi Suzanne, the taste of the brandy is pretty muted in this. However, I think rum would be excellent in this drink. I haven't yet tried it, but I will at some point. I'd probably try a dark rum first — I think that would be particularly tasty. Specifically, I think Gosling's Black Seal would be ideal. Thanks for the comment.

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  14. I have to admit, after I had a very bad chocolate martini experience, I have stayed away from the chocolate alcohol drinks. Now seeing these ingredients, they might not have used the right thing maybe. I am looking forward to the next recipe as well :)

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    1. Hi Ilke, I've seen an awful lot of recipes for modern chocolate "martinis" and frankly, they all look pretty dreadful to me. This one is really good. If you like Bailey's Irish Cream, you'll like this (Bailey's has a different taste, but it's quite similar in some aspects.) Next week's cocktail is totally fun! Thanks for the comment.

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  15. Thanks for sharing the recipe. This may be by holiday drink of choice!

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    1. Hi Lilly Sue, it's a superb drink for the holiday season! Mrs K R and I always enjoy having it at this time of the year. Thanks for the comment.

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  16. This IS dessert in a drink! I love these, but I can only afford to drink one at any sitting. I agree with Mrs. KR - it's like sipping melted ice cream (my favorite way to eat ice cream - BTW). One of my favorite sweet drinks is the grasshopper, so I can't wait until next week!

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    1. Hi MJ, one of these at a sitting is plenty! And isn't melted ice cream good? The Grasshopper is a really nice drink, so I hope you enjoy my post on it next week. Thanks for the comment.

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  17. How fun for Mrs. KR to say "It’s almost like sipping melted ice cream", as I was thinking the same while reading through. My husband likes to melt his ice cream and then he pours cognac over and sips it... Very close, ha?! :)

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    1. Hi Marina, melted ice cream and cognac does sound pretty close to this drink! ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  18. It's definitely the time of year for a drink like this! I like the dusting of nutmeg, it really says 'holiday' to me. I've been making my own Bailey's type of drink with coconut milk instead of cream, and I think I'd do the same here. I'll bet it would be really good by the fire on a dark December evening.

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    1. Hi Mary, the coconut milk is an interesting idea - definitely worth trying. And although I don't always add the nutmeg, it really dresses up the drink, as well as adding some pleasant extra flavor. Thanks for the comment.

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  19. Mrs. Riff has definitely talked me into having this as my holiday drink for the season! It looks absolutely delicious. Looking forward to the grasshopper drink too!

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    1. Hi Judy, you won't be sorry you tried this! It really is a super drink. Thanks for the comment.

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  20. That cocktail must taste so good! I bet I'd get addicted to such a wonderful beverage.

    Cheers,

    Rosa

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    1. Hi Rosa, it really is good. Not a cocktail I'd want all the time, but it's wonderful for holidays or for dessert. Thanks for the comment.

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  21. I've never had a Brandy Alexander to drink, but as I read this post I kept thinking of Feist's song "Brandy Alexander". If the drink is as smooth and lovely as the song, it would be a real winner!

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    1. Hi Beth, it is indeed as smooth and lovely as the song! Really a terrific drink — I certainly consider it a winner. Thanks for the comment.

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  22. Definitely dessert in a glass and it's right up my alley! You make every cocktail so inviting with your photographs.

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    1. Hi Maureen, isn't this such a nice cocktail? And thanks so much for your kind words, not to mention the comment.

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  23. Love this drink John. I really love the nutmeg on the top. Perfect touch.

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    1. Hi Kim, it's a wonderful drink! Thanks for the comment.

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  24. John...this looks fabulous! And I'm with Mrs. Kitchen Riffs. Drinks like these go down too easy for me! I really do enjoy sweet cocktails. And I would definitely give up dessert to have a glass (or two) of this instead! What a fabulous drink for the season. And as always...your photos are just so beautiful! Keep them coming! : )

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    1. Hi Anne, these are really easy sipping drinks. Heck, easy gulping drinks! Thank for the kind words, and the comment.

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  25. Very nice drink! this would go well with desserts

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    1. Hi Raymund, this is a terrific dessert cocktail! In fact I might have it instead of dessert. Well, OK, I'd probably have both! Thanks for the comment.

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  26. I'm so glad that you posted about Brandy Alexanders! It's one of those cocktails that I've always heard about but really never had an idea of what it actually was or tasted like. After reading about how similar it is to melted ice cream, I'm going to have to try it out. It sounds so delicious and perfect around the holidays.Thanks! ~Anne

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    1. Hi Anne, it's really a great tasting cocktail, although IMO really almost a dessert. And it's the perfect holiday drink! Thanks for your comment.

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  27. This cocktail does sound like a perfect Christmas drink. I think your addition of brandy sounds better than adding gin, the flavors would be more fun with brandy:-) Thank you for sharing another fun drink recipe! Hugs, Terra

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    1. Hi Terra, this really is a nice cocktail, and one I always enjoy once or twice every December. It's good stuff. ;-) Thanks for the comment.

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  28. I'm a huge fan of brandy alexanders and don't think that they get enough attention in the normal bar world. Great 1:1:1 ratio in the drink, I've had them at a 2:1:2 before and didn't like them as much (brandy gets a bit overwhelming).

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    1. Hi Food Jaunts, I agree that too much brandy in this drink is, well, too much. ;-) I've tried all sorts of ratios, and now always use 1:1:1 - it's just the way I prefer the drink. Thanks for the comment.

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  29. I'm not much of a drinker but I love looking at your beautiful cocktails. My husband on the other hand enjoys all kinds of drink. Your blog has been our go to recipe for cocktails. ;)

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    1. Hi Nami, aren't cocktails pretty? Even though you don't drink, you still get to enjoy the way they look! Glad your hubby is finding my recipes useful! Thanks for that, and for commenting.

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  30. My husband and I used to go to a restaurant in Ft. Lauderdale where we would have a wonderful Sunday brunch sitting outside by the water. Instead of dessert, we would always order a brandy alexander...delicious.

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    1. Hi Karen, dessert cocktails can be nice things, and the Brandy Alexander is one of my faves in this category. Great drink! Never had a chance to sip on one by the water, though - I need to remedy that! Thanks for the comment.

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  31. This is better, chocolate brandy goodness, perfect as a nightcap after the feasting of Christmas. I think along with the nutmeg on top a few chocolate curls would be just delightful, though some people don't like floaties in their drinks.

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    1. Hi Lizzie, the chocolate curls are a good idea! Not the traditional garnish, but who cares? Terrific idea. Thanks for the comment.

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  32. I do love a brandy alexander! I haven't tried making one at home yet so I think I'll have to give it a try very soon with thanks to your great advice.

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    1. Hi Amanda, these are an easy cocktail to make, although of course you need to get the ingredients (and if you don't make many, it's probably more practical to order them when you're out). Have fun making these! Thanks for the comment.

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