With the holiday season approaching and the days growing colder, breezy summer spritzers in the garden seem like a distant memory, and everyone’s thoughts turn to cosy family gatherings and comforting winter cocktails. If you’re looking for something to take off the winter chill, these winter drink recipes are sure to warm your heart, and for something a little different, check out these warming winter drinks from around the world.
But winter is also the time for all things festive, for celebrating, letting go and indulging yourself a little. If you’ve just enjoyed a festive family meal, why not linger at the table with some after-dinner drinks? Brandy cocktails are perfect for this time of year, the taste equivalent of a comfortable armchair by a roaring fire. And of course, brandy goes great with Christmas pudding.
There are brandy cocktails for every taste. For something to sip and savour, try Salvador Dali’s favourite, the Casanova cocktail- natural brandy heat accentuated by ginger and cayenne pepper, and gently sweetened with fresh orange juice. Or for a liqueur coffee with a Scandinavian twist, we love the warm boozy custard flavour of coffee grog with brandy. But for a truly indulgent, pudding-in-a glass cocktail, treat your dinner guests to the creamy chocolate decadence of the brandy Alexander.
A brandy Alexander is made with equal parts brandy, crème de cacao and double cream, served with ice and a sprinkling of nutmeg. And if you really want a cocktail that feels like a dessert, you can even swap the cream for your favourite vanilla ice cream. Because of its sweet, creamy flavour, the brandy Alexander is sometimes seen as a silly, frivolous drink, but if there’s any time of year to let go and enjoy a bit of silliness, surely that time is Christmas.
Originally known as the Alexander #2, the brandy Alexander is actually an adaptation of an earlier drink called the Alexander, which used gin instead of brandy. The drink seems to have been created in the early decades of the 20th century, with one of the first printed recipes appearing in Hugo Esslin’s Recipes for Mixed Drinks in 1916. Which Alexander the drink is named after is a subject for debate, with candidates ranging from Russian Tsar Alexander II to theatre critic and member of the Algonquin round table, Alexander Woollcott. A 1915 article in the Philadelphia Enquirer also suggests that the drink may have been created in honour of Phillies pitcher Grover Cleveland Alexander.
The most widely accepted theory is that the Alexander is named after its creator, said to be barman Troy Alexander. Alexander was a barman at pre-prohibition New York lobster palace, The Rector, a favourite hangout of the city’s nouveau riche. The story goes that The Rector was asked to host a dinner promoting the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad’s mascot, Phoebe Snow. The company wanted to showcase the clean-burning anthracite they used to power their locomotives, so their new advertising campaign featured a fictional train passenger called Phoebe Snow, whose white dress remained free of coal dust for the entirety of her journey. Troy Alexander was tasked with creating a white drink for the occasion, and the Alexander, originally made using gin and cream, was the result.
The Alexander was popular throughout the prohibition era, probably because the cream and nutmeg disguised the harsh taste of bathtub gin, and it’s popularity spread to Europe when it was served at the 1922 wedding of British Princess Victoria Alexandra Alice Mary, daughter of King George V and Queen Mary, and Henry George Charles Lascelles, 6th Earl of Harewood. Around this time, people began experimenting with the Alexander, swapping the gin for other spirits. There is no record of who first used brandy, but over the years, the brandy Alexander has overtaken the original recipe to become the preferred version of the drink.
Directions (list of all the steps)
There are two ways to make Brandy Alexander: with cream, or with ice cream. We have included both recipes below so you can pick your favourite:
To make a Brandy Alexander with cream, you will need:
1 oz brandy
1 oz crème de cacao
1 oz double cream
Freshly grated nutmeg, to garnish.
Chill your glasses in a refrigerator for at least an hour.
Fill a cocktail shaker halfway with ice.
Pour over the brandy, crème de cacao and cream, and shake until the outside of the shaker feels very cold in your hand, then strain into two glasses.
Sprinkle the grated nutmeg over the top, and serve.
To make a Brandy Alexander with Ice Cream, you will need:
1 oz brandy
1 oz crème de cacao
1 oz vanilla ice cream
Freshly grated nutmeg, to garnish.
As before, chill your glasses in the refrigerator for at least an hour
Transfer the ice cream from the freezer to the refrigerator for twenty minutes to soften it up.
Pour the brandy, crème de cacao and softened ice cream into a blender, and mix until just combined.
Pour into two glasses, and sprinkle the grated nutmeg over the top.
Serve, and enjoy!
Brandy Alexander: best glassware
The best glassware to serve a Brandy Alexander is either a cocktail glass or a coupe glass. Using a glass with a stem means you don’t have your hands around the contents of the glass and your cocktail will stay nicely chilled for longer. Both glasses hold a fairly small amount of liquid, just enough for a rich, creamy cocktail like the Brandy Alexander, and both have a wide, shallow bowl, releasing more of that delicious boozy chocolate aroma.
Which of these glasses you choose will likely depend on your own sense of style, but there are some other considerations too. The cocktail glass, sometimes known as the martini glass, was introduced at the 1925 Paris Exhibition at the height of the art deco period, and has a sleek, modern vibe. It has a slightly longer stem than the coupe, keeping the drinker’s body heat away from the precious liquid for longer, and it’s steeply sloping sides prevent cocktail ingredients from separating. So if your guests are likely to leave their drinks to one side while engrossed in conversation, your brandy Alexander will keep its just-poured freshness for longer in a cocktail glass.
The coupe, on the other hand, has a delicate, old-fashioned air, and is thought to have been created some time during the seventeenth century. You may know it as the glass that was supposedly modelled on Marie Antoinette’s left breast, although sadly this rumour is almost certainly false. Sometimes called a Champagne saucer, the coupe was the glass of choice for Champagne drinkers until it was replaced by the modern flute glasses we use today. It also has a slightly curved lip, which helps to prevent spills, so if you’re worried about brandy Alexander stains on your rug, the coupe could be the glass for you.
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