Friday, 27 January 2017 12:56

Raise a glass to Brandy Alexander Day

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Put a tot into your Brandy Alexander Put a tot into your Brandy Alexander Pictures supplied by Distell

January 31 was officially Brandy Alexander Day, the only cocktail to have a day officially named in its honour. Those with a bibulous bend raised their Brandy Alexanders in a toast and fortunately South Africa had some superb brandies to celebrate with.

Brandy Alexander Day can be celebrated on any day, in my personal opinion ... Distell, which produces premium brandies which earned accolades at the seventh annual New York International Spirits Challenge (ISC) in 2016, has come up with the perfect Brandy Alexander recipe.

This relatively simple cocktail is a concoction of 1 part brandy, 1 part chocolate liqueur and one part cream, garnished with a dusting of nutmeg. And for a decadent dessert, just add a scoop of vanilla or chocolate ice cream and transfer to a bowl. 

 Brandy Alexander Day

1 parts crème de cacao (alternatively use any good chocolate liqueur such as Klipdrift Black Gold)

1 parts cream

1 part Van Ryn’s 10 year old brandy


Ice cubes

Add all the liquid ingredients to a cocktail shaker, fill the shaker halfway with ice cubes and shake for about 30 seconds or until the outside of the shaker is getting nicely frosted. Strain into a glass, traditionally a cocktail glass or martini glass which, ideally, you’ve been chilling in the freezer. Garnish with a sprinkle of nutmeg and you’re ready to celebrate Brandy Alexander Day in style.

You could try other superb local potstill brandies as well in your Brandy Alexander, all of them available at Makro and Pick n Pay Liquors and online at

Stellenbosch brandy distillery Van Ryn’s clinched two international awards at the ISC in 2016. The South Africa 12-Year Brandy of the Year was awarded to the Van Ryn’s Distillers Reserve 12-Year-Old, while the South Africa 15-Year Brandy of the Year went to older sibling, the Van Ryn’s Fine Cask Reserve 15-Year-Old. The two brandies also won a Silver and Gold award respectively.

Distell stablemate, the 18-year-old Oude Meester Souverein was awarded Gold.

“This mature potstill brandy has lingering flavours reminiscent of almonds with nuances of ginger and chocolate, following through onto a warm, mouth-filling palate,” says Distell brandy ambassador Nick Holdcroft.

 “These fine products were judged along with almost 600 other spirits from around the world in a blind tasting, where top spirits buyers from around New York City judged the spirits by their category and price.

"We are proud to have once again shown that South African potstills can compete on an international stage.”

Check out the brandies'  tasting profiles:

 Van Ryn’s 12-Year-Old

Colour: Lustrous, deep golden amber.

Nose: A complex range of ripe and dried fruits with dark berries, plums and dried apricot with spicy aromas of vanilla, cinnamon and sweet tobacco.

Taste: A great concentration of aromas and flavours which meld wonderfully together while retaining a fine balance. Oak aromas are well-balanced with mature notes of strong dried fruit that develop into hints of coffee.

Finish: Elegant with a controlled power. A soft velvety palate of dried fruit and coffee ends on a lingering, lasting note.

Serving suggestion: Best enjoyed neat, with ice or a dash of water.


Van Ryn’s 15-Year-Old 

Colour: Rich, burnished gold.

Nose: A remarkable citrus and honey character together with fragrant tones of cigar box.

Taste: Chocolate and liqueur meld with oak to create an unforgettable full flavoured brandy with a voluptuous mouthfeel.

Finish: Full and complex that is rounded and creamy with an opulent density.

Serving suggestion: Best enjoyed neat, with ice or a dash of water.


Oude Meester Souverein 18-Year-Old 

 Colour: Auburn amber.

Nose: Intriguing and deeply complex with layers of ginger, mocha coffee, strawberry jam and vanilla.

Taste: Lingering flavours reminiscent of almonds with nuances of ginger and chocolate following through onto a warm, mouth-filling palate.

Serving suggestion: Neat or with a little ice.

When it comes to the origins of Brandy Alexander, there is little consensus. Popular opinion leans to the first appearance of this decadent cocktail being at the wedding reception of Princess Mary and Viscount Lascelles in London in 1922. However, the Russian Tsar, Alexander II thought otherwise, believing that the cocktail was named after him, while a famous opera critic of the time, Alexander Dragon was convinced that the drink was named in his honour. Egos, egos!

Regardless of its origin, we do know that that the Brandy Alexander was developed from an earlier cocktail simply called the Alexander which used gin instead of brandy. The Brandy Alexander is slightly smoother and sweeter than the gin-soaked original and went on to claim international fame and favour on cocktail list in the swankiest bars and clubs. 

Brandy Alexander is always considered a very 20s and 30s drink, thank to the cocktail craze, and was immortalised in the 1981 TV series of Brideshead Revisited.

"Yum! Yum! Down the little red lane they go. How the students stare!" declared Anthony Blanche, who polished off four Brandy Alexanders in a row.

The cocktail proved very popular in pre- and post-war England and made a resurgence in the USA during the 1970s, becoming somewhat of a cultural icon, with numerous endorsements in songs, books, film and television.

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