Recipes: The Brandy Alexander Is the Original Boozy Milkshake. Here’s How to Make It. | Wine Enthusiast
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Brandy Alexander cocktail on grey marble surface with chocolate and nuts.

The Brandy Alexander Is the Original Boozy Milkshake. Here’s How to Make It.

The Brandy Alexander is a classic cocktail whose name everyone seems to know, but fewer have tried. Documentation of the cocktail dates back over 100 years, though its origins are as murky as any from the pre-Prohibition era. Some credit to bartender Troy Alexander in New York City, while other stories attribute it to drama critic Alexander Woolcott or say it was named after Tsar Alexander II of Russia.

What’s not in doubt is that the Brandy Alexander is an ingredient-swapped riff off the Alexander, which features the same structure and ingredients but uses gin. Brandy became the favored liquor for the combination, as the brown spirit and oak aging better compliments the cocktail’s chocolate-forward profile.

What’s in a Brandy Alexander?

The Brandy Alexander is equal parts Cognac, brown crème de cacao and heavy cream. Shaken with ice and served up, it’s the cocktail world’s version of a boozy milkshake.

The key ingredient here is crème de cacao, a category of chocolate liqueur that can run the gamut from delightful digestif to painfully-sweet booze-syrup. Since it’s one of the main balancing components in this drink, you’ll want to invest in a quality bottle.

A common misconception, the “crème” is a French term meant to denote a liqueur with particularly high, syrup-like sugar content, and not necessarily something that uses cream. That said, crème de cacao tends to fall into two categories: non-dairy brown or dark crème de cacao, and those with a cream base.

In a Brandy Alexander, you’ll want to stick to dark crème de cacao, as cream will be added as a separate ingredient—doubling up by using a cream crème will make an extra thick drink. Within the crème de cacao category, options are as varied as your favorite chocolate bar.

Godiva Chocolate Liqueur is a no-frills option that works well as a mixer in a variety of drinks, providing straightforward chocolate flavor. Mozart Dark Chocolate Liqueur offers a similar, but more bitter-sweet profile. Tempus Fugit Crème de Cacao is a Switzerland-style offering that brings more pronounced notes of vanilla to your drink. Italy-based Borgata offers a line of flavored chocolate liqueurs that allow you to tailor your drink, including a Chocolate Peppermint option that creates a sort of cross between a Brandy Alexander and a Grasshopper.

Though most aged grape-based brandies will work just fine in a Brandy Alexander, for the classic variation you’ll want to use a Cognac, whose mellow oak notes mix well. Pierre Ferrand 1840 works beautifully in most cocktails, and Martell V.S. or Deau V.S. are also solid options in the $20–40 range.

With its heavy, sweet profile, you may not want to down multiple Brandy Alexanders over the course of an entire evening. But this classic still performs beautifully as an after-dinner digestif, perfect for those who don’t want to decide between a drink or dessert.

How to Make a Brandy Alexander

Total Time

1 min.
Serving Size



1 ounce Cognac
1 ounce crème de cacao
1 ounce heavy cream
Grated nutmeg, for garnish


Combine all ingredients except garnish in shaker filled with ice. Shake vigorously until well chilled, 15–20 seconds. Double-strain into chilled coupe or martini glass. Garnish with freshly grated nutmeg.


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