Thursday, December 16, 2010

The Brandy Alexander: A Memory

My parents used to host a Christmas party each year. It was always a wonderful time, catching up with many old family friends and for many of us, it marked the beginning of the holiday season. One of the signature drinks that my Dad made was a Brandy Alexander. Dad used to make it with eggnog, a jigger of brandy and a dusting of nutmeg. I don't like eggnog, so I make mine in the traditional manner — as it's served at the Savoy: brandy, a little light cream and creme de cacao shaken over ice and poured in a martini glass, garnished with a light dusting of nutmeg. Very rich, but also very delicious.

I shared a Brandy Alexander with my husband at the Savoy in London, on my birthday a few years ago. That night the Savoy's American Bar was almost empty except for the pianist and ourselves. The Bar is never empty. It was July 7, 2005. The day of the London bombings. During that morning's rush hour, three bombs had been detonated on the London underground in quick succession, with a fourth bomb exploding an hour later on a double decker bus in Tavistock Square. London transit shut down and all services were suspended. We watched as tens of thousands of people were evacuating the city on foot, many using the Waterloo Bridge, which we overlooked from our room at the Savoy. I will never forget that sight. I will never forget that day.

That evening, my husband and I talked with the young pianist who was playing to his small audience of two in the American Bar, and asked him how he was coping with the enormity of the day's events. He admitted that he was obviously shocked, but in typical British fashion, he felt he should just keep calm and carry on. That's why he was there, playing his piano. His wife was of a different mind. She was terrified for his safety and kept calling on his cell phone making sure he was alright. He assured her that he was fine and was being kept company by two friendly Canadians. Yes, two friendly Canadians, gripping our Brandy Alexanders, thankful that we were both safe, but aware that our world was changing before our eyes and would never be quite the same again.

Brandy Alexander
Serves 4

6 oz brandy
4 oz dark creme de cacao
4 oz light cream
Grated fresh nutmeg

In a martini shaker half filled with ice cubes, add the brandy, creme de cacao and cream. Shake well. Strain into a martini glass and garnish with some fresh grated nutmeg. Share this cocktail with good friends over the Christmas Season.