Cocktail: Brandy Alexander
Recipe by Erika Chavez-Graziano
Cellar Door Chocolates, Louisville, Kentucky
The Brandy Alexander is a throwback to the days of dessert drinks, a category that’s gone somewhat out of favor in recent years. Chocolate liqueur and cream or half-and-half gets cut with boozy brandy, whose fruity and floral notes mix well with the other ingredients. The brandy version is actually a much more popular variation on the original Alexander, a cocktail first published in Hugo Ensslin’s 1916 classic, Recipes for Mixed Drinks calling for gin, of all things.
But for Erika Chavez-Graziano, owner and founder of Louisville’s Cellar Door Chocolates, “Brandy Alexander” was a favorite song first. The minor 2007 hit for Canadian singer-songwriter Feist actually inspired Chavez-Graziano’s love of the cocktail. “Without getting too personal, it was kind of ‘our song’ with an old girlfriend,” she says, “and I fell in love with the cocktail, too.”
That same year, Chavez-Graziano decided to drop out of grad school at the University of Louisville and turn the chocolate truffles she’d been making for friends and professors into a career. By 2010, she’d opened a shop in the city’s Butchertown neighborhood, and now Cellar Door has eleven full-time employees and makes more than 150 different confections, from bourbon balls and caramels to peanut butter cups and bean-to-bar chocolate.
Cellar Door makes Brandy Alexander truffles, too, using spirits from Copper & Kings, a distillery just blocks from the shop that defies its heart-of-bourbon-country location by making brandy instead of bourbon. In both the truffles and the cocktail, Chavez-Graziano likes the distillery’s Floodwall American Apple Brandy, a 100-proof oak-aged spirit with nice honey, fruit, and oak flavors. “It’s the brandy I care about,” she says. “That’s the spirit that’s shining through.”
One key to making the drink at home: lots and lots of shaking. It helps aerate the cream and makes the drink light and ethereal, carried along on the flavor of the brandy rather than the weight of the cream.