The History of the Alexander

The Alexander is a dessert cocktail steeped in history that is made using a basic mixology template that every experimental cocktail should start with.
The original drink is made using gin, chocolate liqueur and cream. Although the drink has spawned many variations, all work on the basic premise of 1 part base spirit, 1 part liqueur and 1 part dairy based mixer.

The first Alexander is thought to have been made by Troy Alexander at Rectors in New York. They were celebrating the creation of the fictional character, Phoebe Snow. She was a beautiful cartoon woman used to promote the use of clean-burning coal on the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad. She wore a white dress, white hat and white gloves, and so Alexander wanted to create a white cocktail to commemorate her. He named it after himself.

It was first captured in print in “Recipes for Mixed Drinks” by Hugo Ensslin in 1915.

Around 1922, Princess Mary married Viscount Lascelles in London. Most believe that this was the time when the gin was replaced with brandy in honor of this event. Thus, the Brandy Alexander was born. This is now the most popular version of this drink, with the cocktail cropping up in more lists than the original Alexander. It is slightly smoother and sweeter, and many think, tastier.

The marriage story is widely disputed, however, and there are many other theories as to how it was created. Some think that the Brandy Alexander was not a variation of the original, but a new drink created without any knowledge of its predecessor. The Russian Tsar, Alexander II, believes the drink was named after him, while opera critic, Alexander Dragon, believes it was made with him in mind. Either way, the drink has become extremely popular, appearing in many television programs including the Mary Tyler Moore Show when her character ordered one during a job interview. The show is considered to be one of the most acclaimed programs ever produced, and did a lot to raise the profile of the drink. Ringo Starr and John Lennon were also said to be huge fans of the Alexander, with Lennon referring to it as his milkshake.

Other variations include the Coffee Alexander which swaps the gin for coffee liqueur, and the Blue Alexander which replaces the crème de cocoa with blue curacao. The cream is often substituted with milk or sometimes ice cream to make a really delicious after meal treat.

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Bartender's top tip

Stirring cocktails instead of shaking is better for cocktails with delicate ingredients that need to be mixed gently for the perfect taste.

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