There’s a certain type of drinker who just can’t resist the offer of an after-dinner Brandy Alexander. Mrs. Banks’s sister falls into this category, for instance, and I can’t say as I blame her. The drink might be mildly out of style, but it’s delicious, just the same. And when it’s served with a garnish of cinnamon or nutmeg, can be positively elegant.
But I serve them so rarely now, I’m not always conscientious about keeping the ingredients on hand. This was less of an issue years ago, especially the times when the family would gather at Mrs. Banks’s parents’ place on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. My father-in-law has never been an especially adventurous drinker, and stocked his bar accordingly. The typical inventory, if I remember right, was a bottle or two of whiskey, a smattering of liqueurs, and a bottle of plum wine that had been acquired years ago during my mother-in-law’s “Japan” period.
Those pickings might have been slim, but not so slim that I couldn’t figure out a way cobble together an ersatz Brandy Alexander out of them whenever I (inevitably) asked if anyone would care for one and my sister-in-law (also inevitably) piped up that, yes, yes she would. Not having any actual brandy or crème de cacao on hand presented less of a problem than you might think. Whiskey (anything but scotch) stands in nicely for the brandy, especially if you don’t volunteer to the drinker that you’ve made the switch. As for the crème de cacao, all sorts of liqueurs will substitute well. Frangelico and Amaretto come to mind, in particular. (There’s less wiggle room on the dairy side, although, in a pinch I’ve used skim milk instead of the cream and didn’t get nearly as many complaints as I expected.)
Years later, I finally confessed that I’d been winging the ingredients all that time, and am happy to say my sister-in-law received the information more graciously than she had a right to. (She did say she’d been mildly suspicious all that time; the woman’s not an idiot, after all.) I then gave her a blind taste test that pitted four versions of my fake Brandy Alexander against the real thing, to find out which one tasted best. In the event, the real McCoy only managed to come in third.
- 1 ounce whiskey (your pick of bourbon, rye, Canadian, or American blend)
- 1 ounce of some liqueur or other (Amaretto, Benedictine, Frangelico, and Irish Mist all work great)
- 1 ounce cream or milk
Pour whiskey, liqueur, and milk or cream into a mixing glass filled with ice, and shake vigorously. Strain into an old-fashioned glass filled with ice. Garnish with a pinch of nutmeg or cinnamon.