Cocktail of the Month: The Brandy Alexander

In the classic Beatles song “When I’m Sixty-Four,” the Fab Four muse about “Birthday greetings, bottle of wine.” Was wine of one of their favorite potables? Indeed, there is musical evidence to suggest they enjoyed vino. According to, the buzzing sound at the end of “Long Long Long” is a bottle of red wine vibrating on top of a Leslie speaker cabinet.

While they are better known for fancying psychedelic substances, the Beatles also partook of scotch. In his (ghostwritten) memoir “A Cellarful of Noise,” manager Brian Epstein recalled that when the group got an audition with Decca, “we all celebrated with rum and Scotch and Coke, which was becoming a Beatle drink even then.” And Paul McCartney,describing in Michael Braun’s book “Love Me Do!” how Bob Dylan turned the band on to marijuana, comments: “Up till then we’d been hard Scotch and Coke men.”

Perhaps the most storied pairing involving the Beatles and cocktails is John Lennon’s penchant for brandy Alexanders. It is said that Lennon was introduced to this creamy potion by songwriting pal Harry Nilsson. It happened in Los Angeles, during Lennon’s so-called “lost weekend,” his 18-month separation from Yoko Ono in 1974. Apparently impressed with the concoction, Lennon exclaimed: “wow, it’s like a milkshake!”

The two were attending a Smothers Brothers concert at LA’s famed Troubadour nightclub. Lennon got quite drunk on his new tipple and started heckling the band. When security tried to quiet his relentless shouting, he threw a punch and a drink, which got them both ejected from the club.

Forged from brandy, crème de cacao and cream, the brandy Alexander’s dessert-like taste can hide its potency. The original Alexander, made with gin, appeared in the early 20th century. Its popularity was surpassed by the brandy version, which became well-loved by midcentury.

While the origin of the Alexander is unclear, one of the most credible stories comes from the Wall Street Journal. The gin cocktail was supposedly invented at the New York restaurant Rector’s at a dinner celebrating Phoebe Snow, an advertising character who rode the Delaware, Lackawanna & Western Railroad in her white dress to emphasize that the locomotives used clean-burning coal. Rector’s bartender Troy Alexander came up with a new, white drink for the occasion.

Some believe that brandy was swapped for gin at the wedding of Princess Mary and Lord Lascelles in London in 1922. Personally, I find the brandy to be a better meld with the sweet notes of crème de cacao and cream, adding a soft, warm touch. Other variations include the coffee Alexander, made with coffee liqueur, and the añejo Alexander, fashioned with aged tequila.

When enjoyed in moderation, a brandy Alexander makes a lovely after-dinner drink. And it’s easy to make your own at home.


2 oz. cognac or aged brandy

1 oz. dark crème de cacao
1 oz. heavy cream

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


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