Brandy Alexander

Everyone loves a Brandy Alexander: creamy, sweet and boozy! Mix up this classy dessert drink recipe with brandy and Creme de Cacao.

Brandy Alexander

Want to mix up a Brandy Alexander? It’s easier than you think…and a creamy, boozy delight. This sophisticated cocktail wasn’t on our radar until we started mixing up dessert cocktails along with our regular fare. And my, is it fantastic! This simple cocktail is equal parts creamy, intriguing, and delicious: a mix of Cognac with cocoa liqueur. It’s almost like a grown up version of the White Russian…and we’re here for it!

Ingredients in a Brandy Alexander

The Brandy Alexander is a dessert cocktail made with equal parts brandy, creme de cacao liqueur, and heavy cream. The first printed recipe for an Alexander was in a 1916 cocktail book, The History of Mixed Drinks by Hugo Ensslin. The original recipe used gin instead of brandy. Over time, brandy or Cognac became the liquor of choice. It’s now on the list of the International Bartender Association’s IBA official cocktails, meaning that it has an “official” definition. The modern Brandy Alexander recipe is equal parts:

  • Cognac (or other brandy)
  • White creme de cacao
  • Heavy cream

Note: You can also make a frozen Brandy Alexander by substituting 2 scoops vanilla ice cream for the heavy cream and blending it in a blender. This is a traditional variation on the Grasshopper and Mudslide as well. Of course, we prefer the traditional cocktail shaker version!

Brandy Alexander

Why is it called Brandy Alexander?

Great question! The exact origin of the drink’s name is unknown. But the most popular theory is that it was invented by bartender Troy Alexander at a New York City restaurant.

Apparently, Mr. Alexander created a special white drink to honor of Phoebe Snow, a fictional marketing campaign character invented to promote a clean burning type of coal used in train travel. Her white dress inspired the creamy white look of the drink! (Of course, we now know that coal is one of the highest polluting fossil fuels on the planet…but we digress.)

Let’s talk more about each of the ingredients…shall we?

What’s creme de cacao?

Creme de cacao is most famous for its use in the Grasshopper, but the Brandy Alexander is a close second. Despite it’s name, there’s no cream in it at all! Here’s a little more about this specialty liquor:

  • Creme de cacao is a cocoa bean flavored liqueur, available in both white (clear) and dark varieties. It’s possibly one of the first alcoholic beverages, made in the 1600’s by monks after cocoa beans were brought back to Europe from America (source).
  • What does creme de cacao taste like? Creme de cacao tastes like milk chocolate with notes of vanilla.
  • How much does creme de cacao cost? It costs between $10 to $20 for a 750 ml bottle.
  • Is it worth buying? Only if you like dessert cocktails! Use it to make creme de cacao cocktails like the Chocolate Martini, Grasshopper or Bushwacker.
Creme de cacao

More about Cognac

You can use any type of brandy in a Brandy Alexander recipe: but the top of the line is Cognac! Cognac is a type of French brandy, a liquor made from distilling wine. There are several grades of Cognac that designate how long it’s been aged:

  • VS or 3 stars (2 years)
  • VSOP (4 years)
  • Napoléon (6 years)
  • XO (10 years)

Watch out, bottles of XO can be upwards of $200! No need to go that high-end, of course. You can use a mid-priced VS or VSOP Cognac for this cocktail. 

How to make a Brandy Alexander (basic steps)

Once you’ve got your Cognac, creme de cacao and cream, there’s nothing to a Brandy Alexander! It’s a traditional shake and strain cocktail.

  1. Shake in a cocktail shaker. Place all ingredients in a cocktail shaker: add ice and shake! (Don’t have a cocktail shaker? Use a mason jar!)
  2. Strain into a glass. Strain the drink into a low-ball glass. If you’d like, you can use a round tumbler like the one shown.
  3. Garnish: The garnish is important here! The fresh nutmeg adds a warm-spiced flavor to the drink.

And that’s it! Let us know what you think of this Brandy Alexander recipe and what occasion you serve it for. It’s one of our favorite creamy dessert cocktails!

Brandy Alexander recipe

The inspiration for the Brandy Alexander may go back much further than 1916: it’s possibly related to a drink from the 1680’s! It reminds us of a drink Milk Punch, made with brandy or bourbon, milk, sugar, and vanilla extract. The drink was first written down in 1688 in Scotland, and the first mention in a cookbook was in 1711. It’s even traditionally garnished with grated nutmeg!

The combination of dairy with Cognac and flavors of vanilla and chocolate can’t be disputed here. Milk Punch is a traditional New Orleans drink, so it’s possible that the inventor of the Brandy Alexander took inspiration from sipping on that cool creamy beverage.

More brandy cocktails

Want more with brandy or Cognac? Here are a few brandy cocktails that are full of flavor:

When to serve a Brandy Alexander

The Brandy Alexander is a dessert cocktail that’s perfect when you need a sweet treat. Try it for a:

  • Dessert cocktail or sweet cocktail
  • Happy hour drink
  • Girls or guys night drink
  • Cocktail hour drink
Print
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Brandy Alexander

The Brandy Alexander


1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (5 votes, average: 5.00 out of 5)

  • Author: Sonja Overhiser
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 0 minutes
  • Total Time: 5 minutes
  • Yield: 1 drink 1x
  • Diet: Vegetarian

Description

Everyone loves a Brandy Alexander: creamy, sweet and boozy! Mix up this classy dessert drink recipe with brandy and Creme de Cacao. 


Ingredients

Scale
  • 1 1/2 ounces* Cognac (or other brandy)
  • 1 1/2 ounces white Creme de Cacao
  • 1 1/2 ounces heavy cream or half and half
  • For the garnish: grated fresh nutmeg

Instructions

  1. Add the ingredients to a cocktail shaker. Add 2 handfuls of ice and shake until cold, about 15 seconds. 
  2. Strain into a cocktail glass. Top with grated fresh nutmeg and serve. 

Notes

*1 1/2 ounces = 3 tablespoons

  • Category: Drink
  • Method: Shaken
  • Cuisine: Cocktails

Keywords: Brandy Alexander, Brandy Alexander recipe, Brandy Alexander drink

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About the Authors

Sonja Overhiser

Cookbook Author and writer

Sonja Overhiser is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the best healthy cookbooks of 2018. She’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the food blog A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Sonja seeks to inspire adventurous eating to make the world a better place one bite at a time.

Alex Overhiser

Cookbook Author and photographer

Alex Overhiser is an acclaimed food photographer and author based in Indianapolis. He’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the recipe website A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Alex is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the best vegetarian cookbooks by Epicurious.

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