GSN Alert: January 31st – National Brandy Alexander Day

brandy-alexander-290x290Sure, we’ve all had at least one Brandy Alexander in our lifetimes.  But rarely does anyone wonder who the eponymous Alexander was.  My good friend Gary ‘gaz” Regan wrote about the origins of this dessert-like concotion a few years ago.  Here’s what he discovered.

“One of the earliest known printed recipes for the Alexander can be found in Hugo Ensslin’s 1916 Recipes for Mixed Drinks. The cocktail, according to historian Barry Popik, was likely born at Rector’s, New York’s premier pre-Prohibition lobster palace. The bartender there, a certain Troy Alexander, created his eponymous concoction in order to serve a white drink at a dinner celebrating Phoebe Snow.

Phoebe Snow, I should explain, was a fictitious character used in an advertising campaign for the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad. The company wanted to get the message across that it powered its locomotives with anthracite, a clean-burning variety of coal. The ads emphasized this by showing Ms. Snow traveling while wearing a snow-white dress.

Getting back to the Brandy Alexander, I should note that it was first known as the Alexander #2. Want to know the secret to making the drink? Go heavy on the brandy and light on the sweet stuff. My recipe is a decent jumping-off point; you can play with it to make it your own. Try the original gin-based Alexander, too.  It’s a mighty fine drink.”

Here’s gaz’s recipe:

Brandy Alexander
2 oz Cognac or other fine aged brandy
1 oz Dark crème de cacao
1 oz Cream
Garnish: Freshly grated nutmeg
Glass: Cocktail

Add all the ingredients to a cocktail shaker and fill with ice. Shake, and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with freshly grated nutmeg.

Imbibing Mr. Boston: Aviation Cocktail

IMG_0894-800It’s hard to believe that the Aviation has been served for over 100 years, since for most of that time, it was virtually unknown.  Now, you can find it on many cocktail menus, and certainly ask for it by name at most upscale cocktail lounges.  I was introduced to the Aviation by Ted “Dr. Cocktail” Haigh in his 2004 book, Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails : From the Alamagoozlum Cocktail to the Zombie.  At the time, it took a lot of rigmarole tracking down both the Luxardo Maraschino liqueur, and the Crème de violette.  However, from the first taste, I was hooked.

The key to me, is the violet liqueur.  Without it, it is an average drink that feels unbalanced and slightly tart.  The Crème de violette (do not use Crème Yvette, as the vanilla flavor really interferes with the overall flavor) adds just the right amount of florality and sweetness to keep the woodiness of the maraschino in check and open up the lemon juice to be more than just a souring agent.

The drink was first published in 1916, in Recipes for Mixed Drinks by Times Square’s Hotel Wallick’s head bartender, Hugo Ensslin.  German born Hugo was highly influential on the skills of latter-day mixologists like Harry Craddock and Patrick Gavin Duffy.  In fact, Hugo’s book was the last cocktail book published in New York before Prohibition took hold.  One wonders what Hugo did for a living afterwards.

2oz gin
0.5oz maraschino liqueur
0.25oz lemon juice
0.25oz creme de violette
garnish: maraschino cherry

Shake with ice and strain into chilled cocktail glass.  Garnish with cherry.