The Alexander

Guest post by Sean Lorre, the Blogtender's husband

Now that we’re three drinks in to Alexander Week, let’s walk it back to the beginning. As I seem to be taking up the mantle of historical cocktail dork expert at the blog, I will be leading the tour.

Did you know that, while the Brandy Alexander is the only Alexander that really remains in the everyday-drinking lexicon, the original Alexander was made with gin?

No really, I swear. The Brandy Alexander took the drinking world by storm after its introduction as the signature cocktail at the wedding of some English royal ugly dudes in 1922, but it was the gin version that came first. As with all things cocktail, the specific origins of the original Alexander are shrouded in myth, misinformation, and mystery.

The Alexander was first documented in Recipes for Mixed Drinks by Hugo Ensslin, most likely published in 1916. (Some references out on the interwebs point to either a 1915 or 1917 publication date, but the seemingly more reliable references point to 1916.) Cocktail Kingdom claims that the Ensslin tome was the last New York cocktail guide published before the implementation of prohibition; I am assuming that they must be referring to the second edition.

We couldn’t have done Alexander Week without the original, but I have to admit, my first thought was, “Gin and chocolate, really?” The original recipe -- equal parts gin, crème de cacao and sweet cream -- just didn’t sound like something I would want to drink (and I’ll drink just about anything).

Keeping with our ice cream theme we quickly settled on mint chocolate chip as our swap-out for the sweet cream and the perfect bridge between herbaceous gin and crème de cacao. The fennel seeds were a last minute stroke of genius from Rose.

The Gin Alexander

1 ¼ ounces Hendrick’s Gin

¾ ounces white creme de cacao

¾ ounces Ciao Bella mint chip gelato, plus a little more for the float

Fennel seeds, for garnish

Pour gin and creme de cacao into an ice-filled cocktail shaker. Add the 3/4 ounces of gelato. Cap and shake vigorously. Strain into cocktail glass. Add a tablespoonish-sized float of extra gelato and sprinkle with fennel seeds.

Tasting Notes:

Despite our initial trepidation this turned out fantastic. Hendrick’s, again, proved to be the perfect gin for the occasion. I’m starting to think there is nothing it can’t do.

 

 

1 Cocktail Kingdom claims that the Ensslin tome was the last New York cocktail guide published before the implementation of prohibition. They must be referring to the second edition. (http://www.cocktailkingdom.com/content/recipes-mixed-drinks)

2 Catalog of Copyright Entries. Part 1. [A] Group 1. Books. New Series, By Library of Congress. Copyright Office (yes, I know this citation does not conform to the Chicago Manual of Style…)

 

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The Bourbon Alexander

To the shock of absolutely no one who knows anything about my drinking proclivities, the second Alexander of Alexander Week is the Bourbon Alexander.

As you can see below, we made this in quite similar fashion and flavor to yesterday’s Brandy Alexander, swapping out cinnamon gelato for pumpkin spice, using dark creme de cacao instead of white. You could also argue a first-cousins kinship between a Bourbon Alexander and Milk Punch, which today tends to be made with whiskey. (Originally, it was rum-based.) This is worth mentioning because Milk Punch was considered medicine/nutrition back in olden times, so now you've got your handy excuse for why you're drinking (again).

 

The Bourbon Alexander

1 ¼ ounces Corner Creek Reserve Bourbon Whiskey

¾ ounces dark creme de cacao

1 ¼ ounces Ciao Bella pumpkin spice gelato, plus a little more for the float

Fresh nutmeg, for garnish

 

Pour bourbon and creme de cacao into ice-filled cocktail shaker. Add 1 ¼ ounces gelato. Cap and shake vigorously. Strain into cocktail glass. Float another spoonful of the gelato in the middle of the glass. Garnish with fresh nutmeg on top.

 

 

Tasting Notes:

About this Corner Creek bourbon (which Sean’s jokingly called Cripple Creek so many times, I forget it’s not really called that): We picked up a bottle at the Wine Library (a must-visit in the Garden State; unlimited cheese sampling!) because it was all of $20. Plus, it comes in a wine bottle. (Hey, I’ve chosen alcohols for reasons far less). We’ve read up on it since then, or at least tried. ‘Tis a puzzlement, this Cripple Corner Creek.

The label says it’s distilled in Bardstown, KY (one of bourbon’s historical epicenters, although not part of Bourbon County) by the Corner Creek Distilling Co., which apparently has no website (anymore?). From what I’ve been able to gather (forgive me if I’m off-base), Corner Creek is a barley-free bourbon, its mashbill containing only corn, wheat and rye, and it’s aged for a completely respectable eight years. According to the wildly divergent online reviews I’ve skimmed, it’s not even a love-it-or-hate-it whiskey; it’s a love-it-hate-it-or-claim-utter-indifference-to-it-with-equal-fervor whiskey.

As a Bourbon Alexander base, Corner Creek served me very well. Its rye notes, while not aggressive, gave the pumpkin spice something to play against, but overall it's a sweet and uncomplicated bourbon.* I'm glad I used it instead of Maker's Mark, which could have over-caramelized the taste of the drink, I think.

Of course, like any good bourbon addict, I will someday definitely make a Bourbon Alexander with Buffalo Trace and encourage you to do the same.

 

* There's actually tons more I could say about Corner Creek. For a whiskey that's almost stubbornly facile, it's made for a fascinating specimen. I'll piece together a good and proper review of it soon, promise.

 

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The Brandy Alexander

Because they’re most perfect for winter (hello, 27 degrees this morning!), because they’re freaking delicious and because I had a Groupon for some Ciao Bella burning a hole in my pocket -- it’s Alexander Week over here at the Five O’Clock Cocktail Blog!

For those who don’t know, an Alexander is a genus of cocktail that employs a primary liquor, creme de cacao liqueur (white or dark) and light or heavy cream ICE CREAM!! Yes, damn it, here at the blog -- unlike every cocktail recipe book you might come across -- we do it with ice cream. With rare exceptions, drinking cream not-in-coffee doesn’t sit well with me. It’s like having chicken for breakfast. (I mean, I suppose I could, I just don’t ever want to.) It makes me picture those annoying cream thimbles you get at McDonald’s, and frankly, I can’t see why I’d ever want cream-cream when I could have ice cream instead.

Plus, the flavors! What flavors does cream come in? Sweet? A smidgen of imagination and a scoop of gelato result in some yummy Alexander combos, ones especially well-suited for cold weather. See, ice cream cocktails may sound like nothing but summer, but to me they conjure cozy sofas, living-room fireplaces, a book, a blanket -- and a good draw of some belly-stoking fire water. When I think about summertime drinking, on the other hand, I want something akin to an astringent gin and tonic. (This cocktail from last week is pretty summerrific, actually.)

Kicking off Alexander Week is the most well-known Alexander, the Brandy Alexander. We'll get to the original Alexander (you'll likely be surprised what's in it!) and others old-fashioned and newfangled later on in the week.

The Brandy Alexander

1 ¼ ounces Remy Martin VO

¾ ounces white creme de cacao

About 1 ¼ ounces Ciao Bella cinnamon gelato, plus a small scoop more for a float

Fresh nutmeg, for garnish

 

 

Pour brandy and creme de cacao into ice-filled cocktail shaker. Add 1 1/4 ounces of gelato. Shake vigorously. Strain into chilled cocktail glass. Float a rounded spoonful of gelato in the middle of the glass. Grate fresh nutmeg on top.

Tasting Notes:

Don’t worry too much about measuring the size of your gelato scoops -- although if you happen to have a melon baller on hand, definitely use that. (Go with the larger scoop, if yours is double-headed.)

Cinnamon gelato struck our fancy for pairing with brandy. What's yours? Experiment!

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