A winter warming cocktail popular at Christmas celebrations
Although not exclusively a Christmas drink, the warmth from the brandy and smooth, creamy finish certainly bring up connotations of a festive sip, traditionally served in the northern hemisphere over the colder months.
There are many versions of the Brandy Alexander story, most lean towards “Alexander” being a New York bartender Troy Alexander of Rectors, but drama critic Alexander Woollcott claims it was named after him, whilst others believe it may be named after the Russian tsar Alexander II.
The key ingredient, as the name would suggest, is a brandy (though technically cognac!) with a hint of cacao and cream. It can be paired with a dessert or drank alone as a digestif.
Can’t make it now? Save this to Pinterest for later
As Amazon affiliates, we earn from qualifying purchases.
Tools you will need for making a Brandy Alexander
- Cocktail shaker with strainer
- Ice cubes
- Cocktail glass – coupe or martini style
- 30ml cognac (brandy)
- 30ml dark crème de cacao
- 30ml cream
- Garnish with nutmeg
- Fill your cocktail shaker with ice
- Add the cognac, crème de cacao and cream
- Shake well for at least 20 seconds
- Strain into a chilled cocktail glass
- Garnish with a dusting of finely treated nutmeg
For additional serves simply multiple out your quantities. Most shakers can yield up to 4 cocktails.
30ml = 1 fl.oz.
Variations on the Brandy Alexander
Cognac v Brandy
The name would suggest that brandy is the key ingredient, though to be technical the original recipe actually calls for cognac. As we discuss over in our guide to Cognac, Cognac is a regional variety of brandy, you won’t go too far wrong substituting the cognac with your favourite drop of brandy instead.
Does it matter which type of cognac?
It can be awfully confusing the first time you find yourself standing in a liquor store looking that vast array of spirits thinking what on earth should I pick! Simply put, that labelling on cognac bottles helps the buyer determine the minimum age of the “eau de vies” used to make the cognac.
For mixing in recipes like this, A “V.S.” or “V.S.O.P” should be fine, you only want a “Napoléon” or”X.O.” if you’re drinking your cognac neat – you’ll soon work it out from the price labels!
Dark or light créme de cacao?
We prefer the percolated dark or brown créme de cacao with a slight hint of vanilla (and some say tastes more like dark chocolate) but there is no problem using a light or white créme de cacao that’s been distilled, almost clear in appearance and tastes more like milk chocolate; neither is overly sweet like a chocolate liqueur. You could even split the 1 part (30ml/1 oz per serve) between light and dark. We recommend a good quality brand such as Bols or DeKupyer and experiment!
Can Kahlúa replace Dark Crème de Cacao?
Although the two liqueurs may have a similar appearance, they are not a direct substitution in this instance. A dark créme de cacao is made from cacao beans and therefore gives a chocolate flavour. Kahlua is a coffee-flavoured liqueur. For a true Brandy Alexander, you shouldn’t substitute, however, if you enjoy your coffee-flavoured digestif we see no reason why you can’t get creative with a Coffee Alexander.
Other chocolate liquer substitutes
Other speciality chocolate liqueurs could also substitute for the Crème de Cacao but you really need to be careful with your sugar balance and the creaminess. Despite the name “Crème”, it is not actually a milk-based ingredient.
What type of cream?
We’ll leave this one to your personal taste but a single cream – also called light cream or non-whipping cream (butterfat content 20%) is what we’ve used and found works best. If you really want a creamy, more deserty finish then you could try double cream, or even finishing the drink with a creamy top layer before adding the nutmeg.
On the rocks or straight up?
We prefer it served straight up as a winter warmer, but those in hotter climates may prefer to try it on the rocks, served in an old fashioned glass rather than a cocktail glass.
Those into their cocktail trivia may know that the ” Alexander” is believed to pre-date the Brandy Alexander and is actually a gin-based drink, whilst those who follow the path of Alexander the Great will say it’s a vodka-based drink – the test of time brandy appears to have come out as the winning combination!
Have some fun, experiment and make it your own fun Christmas drop. Let us know in the comments how you get on!
More Christmas drinks ideas
As well as checking out our complete guide to Christmas cocktails, you may also be interested in our Christmas gift guides for drink-lovers. We cover everything from stylish glassware for your drinks cabinet through to our favourite gifts for coffee-lovers.
If you’re still seeking out that perfect gift idea or stocking stuffer, pop on over for some inspiration here >>
Mama Loves A Drink advocates quality over quantity. Always drink responsibly!