Alexander cocktails

Words by Simon Difford

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The original Alexander cocktail consisted of equal parts gin, crème de cacao liqueur and cream. Over time, other spirits were substituted for the gin – brandy being most popular. The formula has also gradually become boozier with modern recipes usually calling for one-and-a-half times as much base spirit. Other liqueurs in place of crème de cacao are also used in modern Alexander riffs.

With egg white?

In his 1937 Famous New Orleans Drinks and How to Mix 'em, Stanley Clisby Arthur writes, "Smooth as cream, delicate as dew, and easily prepared is the Alexander. Some who mix this particular cocktail do not use the white of egg. A mistake, for the albumen gives a froth and an added smoothness which makes this cocktail different. Like all drinks in which egg white is used vigorous shaking is required. Give the Alexander all you've got in elbow grease to make it live up to its reputation - for it is truly Alexander the Great among drinks in its class."

"Remember that one egg white will do, whether you are mixing for two or a dozen guests. Be strenuous in your shaking whenever there is white of egg or cream in a mixture. Shake, brother, shake, and then some more for good measure."

If adding egg - something that I advocate - then it is certainly important to achieve an emulsion so generating the desired smooth mouthfeel and frothy head, and like Stanley Clisby Arthur, I'd advocate shaking hard but I also recommend you use the dry shake technique and less elbow grease. When he says "one egg white will do for two or a dozen guests" he is right in as much as too much egg white is a bad thing and a third of the white of a medium-sized egg is more than enough.

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Famous New Orleans Drinks and How to Mix 'em

Recipes

Alexander - original gin-based
Alexander the Great - vodka-based
Alexander' Big Brother - gin-based with triple sec and blue curaçao
Alexander's Sister - gin-based with crème de menthe
Brandy Alexander -brandy-based
Cherry Alexander - vanilla vodka-based with cherry brandy
Christmas Velvet Alexander - gin-based with advocaat and fino sherry
Hazelnut Alexander - cognac based with crème de cacao and hazelnut liqueurs
Irish Alexander - cognac based with Irish cream liqueur
Walnut Alexander - cognac-based with walnut liqueur

History / origins

The original Alexander, equal parts gin, crème de cacao and cream, first appeared in Hugo Ensslin's 1916 Recipes for Mixed Drinks.

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1916 Recipes for Mixed Drinks

The Alexander cocktail could have been created to honour Philadelphia pitcher Grover Cleveland Alexander (1887-1950).

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Grover Cleveland Alexander

Its origin is also linked Troy Alexander, a bartender at a New York pre-Prohibition lobster restaurant called Rector's and he may have created his eponymously named cocktail for a dinner celebrating a successful advertising campaign depicting Phoebe Snow, a fictitious railway traveller, wearing a snow-white dress. The advertising campaign for the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad (DL&W) promoted the company's use of clean-burning anthracite to fuel its locomotives.

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It took around two decades for the brandy-based Alexander to emerge, and it appears with the gin-based Alexander in Harry Craddock's 1930 The Savoy Cocktail Book.

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The Savoy Cocktail Book, 1930

The brandy-based Alexander also appears, with amended proportions, in W. J. Tarling's 1937 Café Royal Cocktail Book - Coronation Edition.

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Café Royal Cocktail Book - Coronation Edition

Tellingly, in his 1946 The Roving Bartender, Bill Kelly writes under his recipe for a Brandy Alexander, "P.S. The boys during prohibition used gin."

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The Roving Bartender Two Hemisphere Drinks For Home and Bar

Prohibition may have impeded the inevitable arrival of the brandy-based Alexander, but it quickly went on to dominate.

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