Brandy Alexander Cocktail

By Robert Hess

Few bartenders dread the chocolate martini more than any other drink request. First, it is not a martini. Second, you might as well have a scoop of chocolate ice cream instead! To the rescue comes a classic that is sure to please, simple to make and much more interesting: the Brandy Alexander.

Recipe

Ingredients

1 1/2 oz cognac

1 oz cream

1 oz créme de cacao

Instructions

Shake with ice.

Strain into a cocktail glass.

Garnish with grated nutmeg.

Comments
Benjamin D. 1 Feb 2011
10:09 am

I also like to add a few dashes of Angostura bitters it this. It’s not so much for the bitterness (which gets lost in the cream and sweetness anyway) but for all of the spices which work well with the nutmeg.

Robert Hess 1 Feb 2011
10:15 am

Benjamin, Bitters seem to make almost any drink better. It always amazes me when I encounter bartenders who let their bottles just gather dust on the shelf.

Lawrence Spies 1 Feb 2011
2:56 pm

Chocolate or Xocolatl Mole Bitters would be a great addition! maybe ‘Elemakule Tiki Bitters as well…

Ian Picco 2 Feb 2011
6:44 pm

Hey Robert, i have an unrelated question to this episode. I did a search to see if you had done an episode about it before, but I couldn’t find anything. My question is about free-pouring vs jiggering (measuring). Since I stumbled on to your site, I jigger every drink i make now. I feel that it is a really practical thing to do. And since I only make drinks for myself and my friends at home, i’m not too concerned with how i’m being viewed.

However, I was at a party last weekend and i jumped behind the bar to mix a drink, and my friend started making fun of me for using a jigger. You see, he is a “real” (employed) bartender, who free-pours like every other bartender in this town. Since I’m only a hobbyist, I felt a little intimidated. But I still felt like I was doing a more “proper” thing by measuring. After all, craft is about precision; ain’t it?

I would like to know your take on the subject, or perhaps see a future episode tackling the argument. I’m really only concerned because I have a potential opportunity in getting a part time gig behind the bar a new craft cocktail bar that may be opening soon in Tulsa. I’m just wondering what the manager might have to say about jiggering, and what kind of argument I could have in its defense.

If you already have an episode or an article you could direct me towards, that would be great. Do you talk about it in your book? I still need to pick that up :-) Thanks for help, keep up the good work.

Lawrence Spies 2 Feb 2011
7:42 pm

Ian, If I may, say that many many “real” bartenders use jiggers, I think free pouring is more about style that goes with flaring. Kind of hard to look cool and seamless when after a great flair you have to stop and use a jigger! While you can be very accurate free pouring and entertaining while making a drink. I would rather just use a jigger, to be accurate, make an awesome drink, and dazzle a customers/friends palate rather than give them a floor show! I could care less how dazzling a bartender flairs or accurate free pours are if their drinks miss the mark! So don’t be intimidated!!! If you want to use jiggers go for it and let your drinks do the entertaining! Managers? I guess that depends on each individual situation, but if you can make great drinks quickly using jiggers, then I don’t see a problem, unless of course flaring/free pouring is a job requirement. To tell you the truth, when I order a drink, I am thirsty and I want a drink ASAP, and sometimes when the bartender starts his show, I want to tell them “just make my drink already!” lol BTW tell your friend to come over and let him free pour some preselected drinks and you make them using jiggers, dollars to donuts, your drinks will consistently taste better and the time saved by free pouring is not very much. Thats my two cents!

Robert Hess 3 Feb 2011
6:59 am

Ian, I believe in jiggering.

This is however a debate that really has no clear answer. There are points in favor and against both.

Many bartenders feel that jiggering is a “beginners crutch”, and will proudly proclaim their ability to freepour. Few however are the bartenders who truely can freepour with the necessary accuracy to maintain the consistency required of a true craft bar.

Many claim that jiggering slows them down, and perhaps it does, but not that much. For some bars, every split second counts, because they have thirsty customers climbing the rafter waiting for a drink. Such crowded watering holes however are not the source of craftsmanship.

There are many qualified, compitent, and respected bartenders who prefer to free pour, so I won’t be one to tell them they should be jiggering instead. But I will be thinking it. :->

-Robert

Ian Picco 3 Feb 2011
3:58 pm

Thanks for the words gentlemen. All great things to think about. I believe I will continue jiggering, for I would have a hard time trusting a carpenter who uses no tools to measure his cuts. But on the other hand, I might begin to practice free pouring with a bottle of water. It might behoove me to master both techniques, so I can adapt to more situations. Cheers All!

Nick L. 3 Feb 2011
6:34 pm

I’m glad you chose to deviate from the recipe in the Savoy Cocktail Book that calls for equil parts brandy, creme de cacao, and cream.  While it makes a good tasting drink, I think bumping up the brandy a little bit thins the texture and makes for better balance, both in taste and mouth feel.

As for the bitters, Peychaud’s turns this cocktail into a circus.  Give it a shot.

Alex Staherski 4 Feb 2011
7:14 am

Another question unrelated to the drink. What is the bottle you have on the windowsill next to the Campari and Barenjager? I spotted some at the store the other day and wanted to find out more about it but neglected to write down the name.

Robert Hess 4 Feb 2011
7:39 am

Alex,
You are talking about “Strega”, an old Italian liqueur that dates back to the 1860’s. It is one of those herbal liqueurs which are full of complexities and nuance. It is sweet and complex, and unfortunately isn’t really used much in many traditional cocktail recipes. I have a tendency to gravitate toward these “oft forgotten” ingredients.

Alex Staherski 4 Feb 2011
7:51 am

Thanks, Robert! I will definitely have to check that one out because it sounds right up my alley.

Chuck Burns 18 Mar 2011
10:21 pm

Well, to return the discussion to the drink in question - my wife and I love the Brandy Alexander. My twist on it is a little different. We consider it a “dessert drink” so go a bit heavy on the cream. I use 1 1/2 oz of Brandy, 1 1/2 of Marie Brizzard Brown Cacao and 2 1/4 oz of heavy whipping cream. Grate some fresh nutmeg on it and is is fantastic.

I think the secret is the Marie Brizzard Brown Cacao. I went away from using the less expensive cacaos. I have found that the MB allows you to use a modestly priced brandy and come up with a great drink. In addition to modest brandy’s I have tried espensive brandy’s and some very nice cognacs and find virtually no improvement in taste as long as the I use MB Brown Cacao.

Due to the use of a heay whipping cream it has a great mouth feel. Shaking a bit longer than necessary to cool and dilute helps too. If a person wanted a lighter drink you could cut the cream to 1 or 1 1/2 oz or use regular cream; or do both. We have done both and all are good.

After getting this drink dialed in our Bailey’s consumption when way down!

As to “jiggering” I believe in it. It is important to me to be able to exactly duplicate a drink. Some mixers and liqueurs are intense and a differnce of less than an eight of an ounce can be important. I am working on a modified Cosmo using Leopold Brothers Cranberry Liqueur; it’s flavor of cranberry is so intense that measurements must be exact. An eight of an ounce more or less of vodka won’t matter; with the Leopolds or St Germaine it will.

aurora 26 Nov 2011
2:21 pm

Great video!

Being in Australia we have lots of different ‘creams’

What is the equivalent in Australia? What is the fat content of the one used in this video?

Ghoulie 1 Sep 2012
12:14 am

In your book, you say “This drink is often referred to as a Brandy Alexander which suggests you could use other spirits in place of brandy.”

Well, I got a Boston shaker set at an antique shop a while back.  The glass had different recipes printed on it.  One I was surprised to see the Alexander (not the Brandy Alexander.)  It called for GIN, creme de cacao, and cream.  I don’t recall the exact proportions, as the set was a gift for a friend who wanted to get into home bar tending, and I never saw it again.

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