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Brandy Alexander Recipe | Wine Enthusiast

Brandy Alexander Recipe | Wine Enthusiast

The brandy Alexander is one of those classic cocktails that everyone seems to know about, but few have actually consumed. Documentation of the drink dates back over 100 years, though its origins are as murky as any from the pre-Prohibition era. Some give credit to bartender Troy Alexander in New York City, while other stories attribute it to drama critic Alexander Woolcott. Others still say it was named after Tsar Alexander II of Russia. 

What’s not in doubt is that the brandy Alexander cocktail is an ingredient-swapped riff on the Alexander, which features the same structure but uses gin as its foundation. The brandy Alexander, however, went on to eclipse its inspiration in popularity—perhaps because the brown spirit’s oak-aging better complements the cocktail’s chocolate-forward profile.

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What’s in a Brandy Alexander Cocktail?

The drink combines equal parts brandy, dark crème de cacao and heavy cream. Shaken with ice and served up, it’s essentially the O.G. version of a boozy milkshake. 

Though most aged grape-based brandies will work just fine in brandy Alexander, for the classic variation, you’ll want to use a Cognac with mellow oak notes. Pierre Ferrand 1840 works beautifully in most cocktails, and Martell V.S. or Deau V.S. are also solid options in the $20 to $40 range.

More important is the 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.

Note that “crème” is a French term meant to denote a liqueur with particularly high, syrup-like sugar content—not necessarily something that uses cream. That said, crème de cacao can refer to products in both camps: non-dairy brown or dark crème de cacao, and those with a cream base. You’ll want to stick to a dark crème de cacao, as cream will be added as a separate ingredient. Don’t say we didn’t warn you: Doubling up by using a cream-based crème will make an extra-thick drink. 

Within the crème de cacao category, options are as varied as your favorite chocolate bar. Godiva Chocolate Liqueur is a no-frills option that works well as a mixer in a variety of drinks, providing straightforward chocolate flavor. Mozart Dark Chocolate Liqueur offers a similar, but more bittersweet profile. Tempus Fugit Crème de Cacao is a Swiss-style offering that offers more pronounced notes of vanilla. Italy-based Borgata offers a line of flavored chocolate liqueurs including a chocolate peppermint option that, when used in a brandy Alexander, creates a sort of cross between the standard recipe and a Grasshopper.

With its heavy, sweet profile, you may not want to down multiple brandy Alexanders over the course of an entire evening. But this classic still performs beautifully as an after-dinner digestif, perfect for those who don’t want to decide between a drink or dessert.

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Brandy Alexander Recipe

  • 1 ounce Cognac
  • 1 ounce crème de cacao
  • 1 ounce heavy cream
  • Grated nutmeg, for garnish


Combine all ingredients except garnish in shaker filled with ice. Shake vigorously until well chilled, 15–20 seconds. Double-strain into chilled coupe or martini glass. Garnish with freshly grated nutmeg.

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