Brandy Alexander I – Updated!

Many folks will be familiar with the creamy cocktail, the Brandy Alexander, but what about its ancestor, which was originally made with gin?

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The origins of the Alexander are not 100% clear, but the earliest written reference that I have found was in Recipes for Mixed Drinks by Hugo R. Ensslin from 1915, although I am reliably informed that in Harry Montague’s book from 1914 there is also a gin Alexander. Despite this, it is thought to have originated from bartender Troy Alexander of  Rector’s in New York. Legend has it that it was created as a “pure” cocktail for a party celebrating the advertising success of a character called Phoebe Snow, the mascot of the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad. Back at the turn of the 19th century, the railway engines of the vast continent of America would often shower their passengers with soot, no good for Mark Twain and the other white suit wearers. But DL&W used anthracite instead of coal, which meant that an individual could dress all in white, without fear of a blemish to their dress, and Phoebe Snow embodied this message by always dressing in white. This is why the cocktail had to be pure white and why, really, it should be left ungarnished.

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The Brandy Alexander (also known as the Panama or Alexander II) seems to have come later and the first written reference I have found is in Harry’s ABC (1922).

There is also some evidence pointing to it having been created to celebrate the wedding of Mary, Princess Royal (the only daughter of George V) and the Viscount Lascalles in 1922 but there is a cocktail later in Harry’s book called the Princess Mary Cocktail which consists of equal parts of Gin, Creme de Cacao and Fresh Cream and is accompanied by the following note: “This cocktail was introduced by myself in honour of Princess Mary’s wedding to Lord Lascelles, February, 1922”

This seems to somewhat debunk the idea that the Brandy Alexander was dedicated to them but it’s easy to see where the confusion could come from.

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So the Alexander can be made with brandy or gin, but there is also variance with regards to the Creme de Cacao, which is available in two varieties: brown and white. I can’t speak on behalf of all brands, but the varieties that I use, made by Giffard, taste distinctly different: the brown has a darker flavour, more reminiscent of cocoa or coffee beans, and the white has a lighter flavour, slightly reminiscent of white chocolate.

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My favourite here was certainly the Brandy Alexander with the Brown Cacao, it was the most balanced and was the most balanced, I also liked the bitter notes.

If you usually find these cocktail a little rich, may I suggest replacing the crème de cacao with Mozart Dry Chocolate Spirit; this works particularly well with the gin creating a drink with the dryness of a Martini and some cream and chocolate – unusual but certainly worth trying.

Replacing the gin or brandy with vodka creates an extra-clean Alexander worthy of the drinks original snow-white purity.

Is this all there is to say on the Alexander? Not at all, they’ll be plenty more in the future!*

*Such as The Alexander was a favourite of John Lennon between ’73 and ’75 during his “Lost and Found” period or his “Lost Weekend”.

A special note of thanks to Jeff from Cocktail Kingdom for his help with my research.

Cocktails with… Hayman’s Gin

Hayman’s London Dry Gin was created by Christopher Hayman, the great grandson of James Burrough, founder of The Hayman’s Distillers and creator of Beefeater Gin. Hayman’s London Dry Gin was designed as a classic London Dry Gin and was created by Christopher Hayman as an expression of his ultimate London Dry Gin. Its botanicals include: Juniper, Angelica, Coriander, Liquorice, Orris Root and Orange & Lemon Peel; seasoned Gin drinkers may note that these are all the hallmarks of a classic London Dry Gin.

A bottle of Hayman's London Dry Gin

#1 Neat:

With a short juniper nose, this a very simple, classic gin. It is not overburdened with any showiness, with flavours of juniper and citrus and a warming finish.

#2 Gin & Tonic:

Hayman’s makes a classic gin and tonic: there are crisp juniper notes with a little citrus and a touch of bitterness. Quite refreshing.

#3 Martini:

This was a clean Martini and has some warmth behind it. Strong juniper notes come through, along with a little oiliness. This as not as crisp as Martinis made with some other gins, but it still has the classic characteristics.

#4 Gimlet:

A smoother Gimlet than most, this drink is better with a touch less Rose’s Cordial than usual. The drink is tangy and crisp, with enjoyable sour notes at the end.

#5 John Collins:

Hayman’s makes one of the best John Collins I have ever had; it was tangy and zesty; full of life and flavour. It was exceptionally refreshing (Mrs. B said it was revitalising, but I’m not sure you could put that on the bottle!). This drink, with faint hints of lemon sherbet, was really very good and quickly finished.

#6 White Lady:

A lovely White Lady; mellow and well-rounded with the bright citrus of a good lemon sorbet.

#7 Aviation:

A crisp drink, with each ingredient clearly defined. There are sharp juniper flavours in the drink: it’s a beverage that makes you pay attention, which makes it more than just another Aviation.

#8 Bramble:

The juniper balances out the sugar in this Bramble, making it less sweet and more tart than others. Readers who usually find the Bramble too sweet, this is for you.

#9 Gin Sour:

Tart, with an unexpected creamy finish (no, I hadn’t just left some milk in the shaker) and a strong juniper finish. Different to most Gin Sours that I’ve tried, but certainly worth a try.

#10 Clover Club:

Great. This drink allows the flavour of my home-made Grenadine to come through. It is reminiscent of ice-cream, with its silky texture and smooth blend of flavours.

#11 Dubonet:

In my experience, these can sometimes destroy a Gin’s flavours, but Hayman’s stands up better than most, with the juniper balancing out the fortified wine’s bitterness. There’s a nice hint of citrus, too.

#12 Milano:

Amongst all of the cocktails that I tried, this was one of the few disappointments: the Gin seemed to be lost amongst the Galliano (this is not always the case) and so it didn’t showcase the it very well.

#13 Pendennis:

Hayman’s produced a very different Pendennis cocktail to those that we have had with other Gins. A jammy apricot flavour, similar to that of an apricot jam tart (my favourite flavour) appears about halfway through the drink. The full flavour of the Gin comes through and Mrs. B said it tasted strongly of “Pink” (whatever that means?).

#14 Alexander:

This cocktail had an intriguingly fruity smell; it started with hints of cream and chocolate, moving to warmth and a fuller appreciation of the Gin. The flavours blend together well, so that the battle for dominance between gin and cacao, which is characteristic of the Alexander, is notably absent.

#15 Singapore Sling:

I always enjoy a Singapore Sling, and this was certainly no exception. This cocktail takes a little more effort to make, but it’s worth it. Hayman’s Gin seemed to go well with pineapple juice, with its slight bitter edge balancing out the sweetness of the fruit.

#16 Income Tax Cocktail:

This was a smooth cocktail, with only a little juniper coming through. It rather masks the gin, however, and so is not the best cocktail to enjoy Hayman’s Gin in.

#17 Hot Gin Cocktail: HOT

Mrs B. has a newfound fondness for Toddy drinks; so much so, that I only got a sip to check that it was OK before handing it over. These thoughts are hers: yummy! This is the epitome of a hot toddy: the warmth of the drink starts it off and this effortlessly flows into the warmth of the alcohol at the end. It is incredibly comforting, and definitely my favourite of the cocktails we tried.

#18 Bakewell: HOT

This smells like a Bakewell tart, with an almondy milk taste and a little juniper on the finish. The Gin doesn’t interfere, but complements the other flavours. The cherry completes the drink.

All-in-all Hayman’s really is a classic London Dry Gin and if that’s what you look for in your Gin then Hayman’s is certainly for you. It worked very well in a Gin & Tonic and in cocktails that were sweet and contained citrus, such as the excellent John Collins. For an alternative to these fruity cocktails, try a lovely Alexander or one of the cracking hot gin drinks.

Hayman’s London Dry Gin is bottled at 40%ABV and is available for around £16.

Hayman’s also make an Old Tom Gin, a Sloe Gin and a Gin liqueur.

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