MxMo: Variations on the Brandy Alexander

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This month’s Mixology Monday theme is "Variations," hosted by Jimmy at Jimmy’s Cocktail Hour.

Sometimes it seems like every drink I make is a variation on the original. Probably it is. Good cocktail-making is like good cooking: You take a recipe, tune it to your tastes and to the tastes of those who will consume it, adjust for the ingredients on hand, and apply a little chance.

The Brandy Alexander is itself a variation on the Alexander, which is gin, creme de cacao, and cream in equal amounts, shaken with ice. The brandy variation took over its older brother long ago. I’ll guess this is because your average gin drinker doesn’t want his gin softened by a big splash of cream, while in contrast the brandy version turns out to be perhaps the original "girly" drink — soft and sweet but packing a hefty wallop for those who aren’t careful.

Feist (see video above) isn’t the only one to note its danger. It’s a Brandy Alexander that Jack Lemmon’s character orders for a virginal Lee Remick on their first date in Days of Wine and Roses. The sweet young lady loves her first-ever cocktail, and then 45 minutes later her child has nearly perished in a fire and she’s less than an hour from destroying her marriage, all because she can’t drag herself away from the bottle. So much danger in a simple cocktail glass, sprinkled with grated nutmeg.

Movies notwithstanding, the Brandy Alexander is a mild and friendly drink. It is, in fact, a dessert, with creme de cacao turning a perfectly respectable cocktail into a pseudo-chocolate slushie.

I wanted to find a variation that kept the kick of the brandy or cognac, plus the softness of the cream, but offered a bit more with the sweetness part — more flavor, a little subtlety.

I turned to Tuaca, a sweet Italian liqueur flavored with vanilla and fruity spices. This handled the sweetness admireably and brought in nice flavor, but couldn’t quite balance with the cream. So I added a drop or two of Cointreau and came up with a pleasant cocktail.

I have just a few minutes until midnight to post and can’t find a good name for this thing, so I’m going with the obvious:

Brilliant Alexander

1 oz brandy or cognac
1 oz Tuaca
2 or three drops of Cointreau to taste
1 oz light cream

Combine in a cocktail shaker with ice. Strain into cocktail glass and serve.

Enjoy! And please check out the creations that Jimmy collects for this Mixology Monday of variations. Cheers!

4 thoughts on “MxMo: Variations on the Brandy Alexander”

  1. Andrea, if you enjoy a sweet drink the Brandy Alexander is a fine option. Makes a nice after-dinner beverage in particular — either instead of or with dessert. If you try it, let me know what you think.

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