Today was one of those days I had a hard time trying to figure out how to celebrate. These days come up every now and then, but it has been a while. The official holidays today we’re National Backward Day and National Inspire Your Heart With Art Day. Both fun days, but hard to really celebrate, especially with bad weather. I thought about taking a walk backwards but one, that posed a threat to my general safety as it’s not a particular safe way to walk the streets and two, it would be hard to explain to anyone I passed by what I was doing. I don’t want to be the weird guy on the block anymore than I already am. Then I thought about inspiring my heart with art. I could always just look at art on my computer, although that’s not too exciting to write about. I could have a craft day and make my own, but that involved getting supplies that would be expensive and I just wasn’t feeling it. Then I thought about going too a local art museum but apparently, art museums in Rhode Island in the winter are usually closed on Tuesdays. There is one at RISD (Rhode Island School of Design) in Providence that would probably be interesting, and I thought about going there, but then it started snowing and driving to Providence in the snow wasn’t the smartest move. It was a conundrum.
In the past when this has happened, I have celebrated whatever was being celebrated for the month, but this was no help either. January is Hot Cocoa Month, but I already celebrated that, and it is also National Soup Month, but National Soup Day is coming up at the end of the week, so I didn’t want to double up. Finally I settled for National Blood Donor Month and I tried to make an appointment to give blood, and I did. They squeezed me in for an appointment on February 21st. That was no help today. Finally, after checking all kinds of different sites, I found out that it was Brandy Alexander Day. I wasn’t sure how reputable this info was, but then I saw a few posts about Brandy Alexander Day on Facebook, so I figured it was a real thing. That’s what I’d celebrate today.
I remember when I was first learning how to bartend, someone questioned me on how to make a Brandy Alexander. I didn’t know, but they instilled the recipe into my mind in case someone ever ordered it. I don’t think anyone ever did, but I still remember how: Brandy, Crème de Cacao and cream. I have been ready to make this drink since 1991. According to Liquor.com, the cocktail was likely born at a restaurant in New York called Rector’s. The bartender, Troy Alexander, created it in order to serve a white drink at a dinner celebrating Phoebe Snow. Phoebe Snow was “a fictitious character used in an advertising campaign for the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad. The company wanted to get the message across that it powered its locomotives with anthracite, a clean-burning variety of coal. The ads emphasized this by showing Ms. Snow traveling while wearing a snow-white dress.” I always thought that the Alexander in the drink had something to do with Alexander the Great or another great Alexander in history, but apparently, just a good bartender. The only other trivia I know about the Brandy Alexander is that it was John Lennon’s favorite cocktail who was introduced to the drink by his pal Harry Nilsson. In fact there’s a story from their first night drinking them at the Troubadour in which they proceeded to heckle the Smothers Brothers and assault a waitress. John Lennon certainly was a complicated human. I doubt that fueling him with brandy helped that.
The last time I made a steak au poivre, I used up the last of our brandy for the sauce (that sounds very pretentious), so I knew I would have to go get some. We didn’t have any crème de cacao, but I read through a few recipes and most were ok with substituting in coffee liqueur. It’s not the same, but kind of close and I just couldn’t see spending $20 on a bottle of booze that I would not use again. It had been snowing for a while and the roads had not yet been plowed, and I had been inside all day and in need of some fresh air. So I decided to go old school and hoof it to the package store. It’s only a few blocks away, plus it was kind of nice out, excepting the snow. I suited up in all my snow gear, put the headphones in with my music on shuffle and headed out through the snowy streets to go get my booze.
Something strange about being an adult and walking to the store, even in inclement weather, that makes you feel a little weird. Out of place. Like you had your license taken away and you are trying to make the best of it. But, walks through your neighborhood are good for you. It gives you fresh perspective on your surroundings, it’s fresh air and it gives you time to think (or listen to great music). It only took me about fifteen minutes to get to the store, walking leisurely and noting the neighbors who were already starting their shoveling battles. When I got to the package store, I felt a little more weird because I was dressed in snow clothes which were wet from the snow, my nose was running, and I had to start taking off layers while inside in order to function. I made a beeline for the brandy section and settled on a half pint of Courvoisier. There were other choices, but the big bottles were expensive and I just wanted a little, so the Courvoisier would do me right. Fitting the small bottle of brandy in its brown paper bag into one of the pockets of my coat and then walking back through the streets did not make me feel any less weird. I felt the people coming out of the Dunkin Donuts were judging me too. I still had one more stop on my trudge back home and that was at Cumberland Farms where I picked up some cream. After that, I bundled back up in my snow clothes and marched down the hill back home.
I had read that a Brandy Alexander was a good nightcap or dessert drink, so I held off making it until later in the night after dinner. I kind of had to nudge myself to make it because I wasn’t all that interested in sucking down a cocktail at that point in the night, but I pushed myself and got all my gear together. I made the drink in a cocktail shaker and poured in equal amounts of Courvoisier, coffee liqueur and cream. I then added in some ice and gave it an enthusiastic shake. When double checking my recipe, I got some advice from a video by Bartender Dushan Zaric from the famous Employees Only bar in NYC who said to “shake with great passion so that the drink emulsifies as good as possible.” So I shook passionately and came out with a nice creamy drink that I strained into a tall martini glass. Then I sprinkled on some fresh nutmeg on top as a garnish.
This was actually a really good drink. I’m not one who usually goes for cream based drinks, but it all kind of came together pretty nicely (I think it was my passionate shaking). The brandy part was on the stronger side and it also gave the drink a strong aroma of booze, but it didn’t’t taste too boozy. The coffee liqueur and cream balanced out the brandy pretty nicely. It had a frothy milkshake quality to it that was tasty. It is a great dessert drink and I may even order it out in the future instead of an espresso martini.
In the end, a Brandy Alexander was a pretty good thing to celebrate today because I had something big to toast to today. Today was Day 183 of this little quest which, if you are keeping score at home, means I am officially halfway through. Another 182 days and I will have completed a year of this. Why? Good question. I’m still working that out. But I did it, at least so far. It’s taken me in all kinds of directions from treats to cakes to pies to roller coasters and so much more. It’s been a peculiar six months, not just for this quest, but for other reasons too. Thanks for taking the journey with me. So cheers to all this holiday adventure. May your life always be shaken with passion and may your days always give you reason to celebrate.
Next Up: National Baked Alaska Day