Photo by Tyler Zielinski
The Brandy Alexander is a classic cocktail whose name everyone seems to know, but fewer have tried. Documentation of the cocktail dates back over 100 years, though its origins are as murky as any from the pre-Prohibition era. Some credit to bartender Troy Alexander in New York City, while other stories attribute it to drama critic Alexander Woolcott or say it was named after Tsar Alexander II of Russia.
What’s not in doubt is that the Brandy Alexander is an ingredient-swapped riff off the Alexander, which features the same structure and ingredients but uses gin. Brandy became the favored liquor for the combination, as the brown spirit and oak aging better compliments the cocktail’s chocolate-forward profile.
What’s in a Brandy Alexander?
The Brandy Alexander is equal parts Cognac, brown crème de cacao and heavy cream. Shaken with ice and served up, it’s the cocktail world’s version of a boozy milkshake.
The key ingredient here is crème de cacao, a category of chocolate liqueur that can run the gamut from delightful digestif to painfully-sweet booze-syrup. Since it’s one of the main balancing components in this drink, you’ll want to invest in a quality bottle.
A common misconception, the “crème” is a French term meant to denote a liqueur with particularly high, syrup-like sugar content, and not necessarily something that uses cream. That said, crème de cacao tends to fall into two categories: non-dairy brown or dark crème de cacao, and those with a cream base.