The Brandy Alexander is a creamy classic dessert cocktail that blends brandy (or cognac) with crème de cacao, cream, and a garnish of freshly grated nutmeg.
If you love chocolate or creamy drinks, the Brandy Alexander is for you!
Like most cocktails, it’s origins are a bit hazy. There are a number of conflicting stories about who invented the drink, and who exactly Alexander was, but the one thing we do know is that before there was a Brandy Alexander, there was just the Alexander.
The original Alexander was made with gin
The first Alexander cocktail was made with equal parts gin, crème de cacao and cream.
Gin isn’t typically my first thought when I think dessert drinks, so it’s not a huge surprise that the Brandy Alexander eventually overtook the original in popularity.
Initially known as the Alexander #2, it’s a mystery who first swapped the gin for brandy.
Who was Alexander?
Depending on who you ask, you might hear that it was named for the Russian tsar Alexander II, a prominent drama critic named Alexander Woolcott, or a NYC bartender named Troy Alexander.
According to Gary Regan, the most likely inventor was Troy Alexander, while he was the bartender at New York’s Hotel Rector. The story goes that Alexander needed to create a white cocktail for an event the hotel was hosting in honor of one Phoebe Snow.
Equal parts or more brandy?
Regan recommends a modern take on the equal parts recipe by using 1 ½ ounces brandy to 1 ounce each crème de cacao and cream.
I will gladly drink either version, but I agree that the extra half ounce of brandy makes a more balanced, slightly less sweet-tasting, and highly enjoyable cocktail.
What brandy to use?
Use any brandy or cognac you prefer. I often use Hennessy or Hardy because I have a few extra bottles from work projects. I’ve yet to meet a bottle of cognac I didn’t enjoy, so I’d recommend trying any bottle you have on hand.
What is crème de cacao?
Crème de cacao is a sweet chocolate flavored liqueur that comes in dark and white varieties.
Although some sources say that you can substitute the coffee liqueur Kahlua for crème de cacao in a pinch, the two liqueurs are not the same. You’d be better off substituting a high quality dark chocolate syrup!
You can use either dark or white crème de cacao in a Brandy Alexander. I recommend the wonderful Crème de Cacao à la Vanille by Tempus Fugit.
Frozen Brandy Alexander
For a frozen, even more indulgent variation, try replacing the cream with a scoop of ice cream! Chocolate or vanilla both work great. Toss all ingredients in a blender with a small scoop of crushed ice for a thick frozen treat.
Freshly grated nutmeg is key
I highly recommend using a microplane and freshly grating some nutmeg over the top of the cocktail for the garnish. This seemingly small aromatic addition adds a lot to the flavors of the drink.
If you love dessert cocktails, you might also enjoy my Peanut Butter Brandy Alexander, a classic White Russian, my Boozy Salted Caramel Cold Brew, or this fun Alexander riff made with an adaptogenic chocolate syrup!
A perfect Valentine’s Day cocktail
With Valentine’s Day just around the corner, I added a little flourish to this chocolate-y classic by garnishing with a pink rose petal.
Organic roses are edible and make for beautiful, fragrant cocktail garnishes. Learn all about edible flowers in my Cocktailian’s Guide!
Want more classic brandy cocktails?
Try a Jack Rose with Calvados (a French apple brandy), a classic New Orleans Vieux Carre, or a Sazerac with cognac.
- 1 ½ oz brandy or cognac
- 1 oz creme de cacao
- 1 oz cream or half and half
- Add all ingredients to a cocktail shaker and fill the shaker 3/4 with ice.
- Shake until chilled, then strain into a coupe glass.
- Garnish with freshly grated nutmeg.