Two For You…

I was thirteen years old when Anthony Blanche introduced me to a most sinister drink– the Brandy Alexander.

Mr. Blanche– or Antoine, as he sometimes styled himself–rolled his “r”‘s and wore varnish on his toenails. He  drank champagne in the middle of the afternoon and he stammered at all the right moments.

He was the definition of louche before I ever knew the meaning of the word.

I was both fascinated and repulsed by him, which is precisely how I feel about the Brandy Alexander, since the two are inextricably linked in my brain.

There is a moment early on in Brideshead Revisited (1981 BBC version, not that terrible film that came and went a few years back*) in which Antoine has “chivied out” Charles Ryder “like an old st-toat” and taken him out for cocktails and dinner. The scene opens with four cocktails being placed in front of Blanche. He utters the following words to Ryder:

“Two for you and… two for me. Yum, yum. I expect you prefer sherry but, my dear Charles, you’re not going to have sherry. You’re going to try this d-delicious concoction instead.”

Charles takes a sip from one of the glasses and grimaces. Antoine then proceeds to drink all four of them before going off to dinner where he sets out to bash their mutual friend Sebastian Flyte and warn Charles of the dangers of involving himself with him and the entire Flyte family.

His delivery was smooth and subtle, but delivered a powerful punch. Not unlike those four cocktails he downed in the bar.

And, believe me, they do pack a punch. Have you ever pretended you were Anthony Blanche and ordered four Brandy Alexanders? I have. I did it just so I could re-enact the scene. And I needed props. When one downs four consecutive Brandy Alexanders at one go, one doesn’t feel the kick of the booze until it’s much too late to do anything about it.

I won’t go into detail, but I can assure you it was the last time I ever attempted to keep up with Mr. Blanche.

It’s hard to imagine that such a girlie drink could be so dangerous. Or so sinister. It’s cream and chocolate, for God’s sake. But the more thought I give to the subject, the more I’m convinced that the drinking of Brandy Alexanders leads to very bad things.

The other week, I shared these thoughts with a friend. He looked at me a moment and said, “Isn’t the Brandy Alexander the drink that turned Lee Remick into a raging alcoholic in The Days of Wine and Roses?”

Why, yes, it was.

On her first date with future husband/momentarily functioning rum pot Jack Lemmon, she explains that she doesn’t drink because she doesn’t like the taste of alcohol. She prefers chocolate instead. His solution? He buys her a Brandy Alexander. She loves it, she drinks more. And then a lot more. Lemmon eventually gets sober, she does not.

Another example came up in conversation with my friend Nicky. He told me he had just finished working on a production of John Patrick Shanley’s Savage in Limbo in which a character says of the Brandy Alexander, “My mother drank four of those one Christmas, and she died. She drank four of ’em and then she started breathin’ out. Ssss. And she never breathed in again.”

Evil, I tell you. And deadly.

Even Feist has added her two cents in a song appropriately entitled “Brandy Alexander”.

He’s my Brandy Alexander/
Always gets me into trouble/
But that’s another matter/
Brandy Alexander

Brandy Alexanders. So smooth and creamy and chocolatey. So devious, so dangerous, so deadly. And so terribly delicious.

Is it any wonder Helen Hayes– a woman who shunned drinking– downed three of them before she realized there was alcohol in them?

They always get you into trouble. Miss Hayes never stated clearly whether or not they got her into trouble, but she is dead.

Coincidence? Perhaps.

Brandy Alexander

There is talk in certain circles that this particular alcoholic beverage was created in honor of the marriage between Mary, Princess Royal and Viscount Lascalles in 1922. This is certainly possible, considering the fact that Mary may have been in dire need of alcohol to cope with a loveless match, but naming cocktails after members of the royal family has always been frowned upon by them. Just think of the Fergie Fizz** to properly appreciate their concern.

I, however, prefer the idea that it was named for Alexander Woolcott, a man very fond of said cocktail and– as the inspiration for Sheridan Whiteside in The Man Who Came To Dinner— would have driven anyone within his general vicinity to drink.

Makes one drink. For multiple Brandy Alexanders (or Brandies Alexander, if you prefer), please study this chart if you need a little help.

Ingredients:

1 part Brandy
1 part Crème de Cacao (by the way, it’s pronounced “ko-ko”. The “cacao” part, I mean.)
1 part heavy cream
2 to 3 ice cubes
Nutmeg for garnish. Not chocolate shavings, mind you. Nutmeg.

Preparation:

Place ice into the tumbler of a cocktail shaker. Pour all three liquids over the ice, close the lid tightly, and shake vigorously.

If you are a true alcoholic and are prone to fits of the shakes, get someone to place the shaker into your trembling hands and let those delirium tremens to the work for you. It’s that easy.

Pour your now-frothy drink into an awaiting martini glass, garnish with a pinch of nutmeg, and prepare to meet your own doom.

Or at least get into a little trouble.

Cheers,

Michael

*My boyfriend at the time took me too see this film on my birthday because he knew I’d love tearing it to pieces. How well that fellow understood me.

**Be grateful that I could not find the recipe. As I remember it, it was made with beer, some Sprite®-like soda, and topped off with champagne. I drank one when I was in London around the time of her wedding to Andrew, Duke of York. The only thing I can say in my own defense is that I was 16 years old and didn’t know any better.

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About Michael Procopio

I write about food and am very fond of Edward Gorey. And gin.
This entry was posted in Liquids, Stage, Film, and Television and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

34 Responses to Two For You…

  1. ChocoMeat says:

    OMG the Fergie Fizz sounds amazing!

  2. Hah!!! I knew it!!! So glad you posted this since it explains SO much… my mother had one of these the night before I was born…’nough said.

    Great post Michael – you are truly a gifted writer.

  3. Richard says:

    I just keep running into this drink lately; I think it’s high time I give it a whirl. You sir, have pushed me over the edge. Thank you.

  4. Nice Post Michael. The Brandy Alexander was also the cocktail that got John Lennon into trouble during his “lost weekend” when he was separated with Yoko. He had far too many of the classic cocktail with his song writing partner Harry Nilsson while at the Troubadour, leading to them being ejected for heckling the Smothers Brothers. This story actually inspired the Feist tune. love the song, love the cocktail, love the sweet temptation of it all. keep up the good posts.
    Lennon

    • I can’t believe anyone at the Troubadour would know how to make one. Oh well, another time, another place.

      That really inspired the Feist tune? That makes things all the more fascinating. Thanks for telling me that!

      M

  5. Lindy says:

    Funny!!
    Thank you!
    Great post!
    Never tried this drink…think I might give it a go……………..

    • Thanks, Lindy.

      If you decide to give Brandy Alexanders a go, please be certain to do so under adult supervision. And by adult supervision, I mean someone who a) is not prone to taking pictures of drunk people and posting them on social media sites and b) is not going to take advantage of you unless you ask.

      This is the best advice I can give you.

      Michael

  6. I met a loud and somewhat robust woman in the South one year and “her” name was Brandy Alexander. Yup, not a woman at all but she had all of the lovely qualities of this particular drink. Deceptively charming but packed a punch and a lot of fun. Like the drink, too much made me queasy and had me stumbling to the door to get home.

    The Lee Remick reference has me even more devoted to you than ever

  7. Sasa says:

    How beautifully you write, goddamn you. The fact that you wrote “took me too see the film” is cold comfort when I would give my left pinky (not the right mind, I need that one) to have written this.

  8. Susan says:

    Love this!!
    When it comes to alcohol:
    “It’s not the quantity or the quality but the mixture.”

  9. marla says:

    You are smooth & subtle – that’s why I heart you 😉 LOVE the new header. That photo by WORC is fabulous. You handsome man you!

    • There are times when it takes an artist of great photographic genius to make me look handsome. Diane and Todd were/are wonderfully generous.

      But I will accept the compliment. Thank you!

      xom

  10. Absolutely loved this piece and the way you tied it in with movies and your own memories and experiences. I’ve never heard of this drink before; is it a particularly old cocktail? It feels like it could be from the 20’s.

    • How right you are. It is a 1920’s drink. (See notes in recipe section of post.)

      Interesting how so many cocktails came to be at a time when alcohol was illegal in the U.S. Perhaps that’s why its invention has been credited to the British.

      And thank you, Quest.

  11. Susan says:

    I’ve never tried Plover’s eggs but I have always been curious about them. In an interview with Jeremy Irons, there was a mention of the scene with Plover’s eggs and he remarked that until that time he had never eaten them but is now “addicted” to them. It’s kind of funny to think of Jeremy Irons and his egg addiction.

  12. Thea says:

    In which we discover you write better in your replies to Comments than even in the recipes – thankyouverymuch, I now have to read the recipes which I’m able to skip in other foodie blogs – or the narrative itself. And the first two build upon the superlative. Long may you shake.

  13. Sarah says:

    Excellent post, sir.

    You may well have talked me into sampling one of these deadly cocktails…..I’m sure I’ll be hungover before I even finish it.

    Wish me luck!

  14. Brooke says:

    A drink I shall Avoid for all the aforementioned reasons. But I shall roll the thoughts of it over my tongue. Love the new header!
    B

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