New York columnist Walter Winchell explained the origin of the Alexander cocktail in his column on March 21, 1929. Rector’s (a famous New York eatery before Prohibition) was having a dinner celebrating “Phoebe Snow,” the fictional advertising character who traveled the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad, always in her white dress.
Rector’s bartender Troy Alexander came up with a new, white drink for the occasion—gin, crème de cacao and sweet cream. The cocktail took the name of its inventor. The Alexander cocktail is cited in print from at least 1915; earlier evidence is needed to confirm this origination story.
A Brandy Alexander replaces the gin with brandy and is cited in print from at least 1941. A Coffee Alexander mixes crème de cacao with iced coffee and is cited in print from 1956.
Wikipedia: Alexander (cocktail
The Alexander is a gin cocktail consisting of gin, Chocolate Liqueur (Crème de cacao), and Cream.
Recipes for Mixed Drinks, by Hugo Ensslin, 1915
1/3 El Bart gin
1/3 Crème de Cacao
1/3 Sweet Cream
Shake well in a mixing glass with cracked ice, strain and serve.
The most common variation of the Alexander is the Brandy Alexander, made with brandy instead of gin. Similarly, a Coffee Alexander substitutes coffee liqueur (such as Kahlua) for gin, and a Blue Alexander substitutes blue curacao for gin. Other variations exist.
Wikipedia: Brandy Alexander
Brandy Alexander is a sweet, brandy-based cocktail that became popular during the early 20th century.
It was supposedly created at the time of the wedding of the Princess Royal and Viscount Lascelles, in London, in 1922 (Source: Classic Cocktail Club, Milan, Italy)
The Brandy Alexander is based on an earlier, gin-based cocktail called simply an “Alexander”.
It is sometimes confused with a drink called a “Panama,” which is made with light crème de cacao, instead of the dark crème de cacao used for the Brandy Alexander.
1 1/2 oz Brandy
1 oz Dark Crème de Cacao
1 oz Half-and-half or Heavy cream
1/4 tsp grated Nutmeg
Rather than nutmeg, fresh Mint leaves or an equal measure of Ginger have been used for different flavor blends with the Cacao.
In a shaker half-filled with ice cubes, combine the brandy, crème de cacao, and half-and-half. Shake well. Strain into a cocktail glass and garnish with the nutmeg.
Wikipedia: Phoebe Snow (character)
Phoebe Snow was a fictional character created to promote the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad, and, in later years, the name of a pair of passenger trains.
1900: The advertising campaign
Rail travel around the year 1900 was not pleasant. After a long trip on a coal-powered train, travellers would frequently emerge covered in black soot. The exception to that rule were locomotives powered by anthracite, a clean-burning form of coal. The Lackawanna owned vast anthracite mines in Pennsylvania, and could legitimately claim that their passengers’ clothes would still look clean after a long trip.
To promote this fact, their advertising department created Phoebe Snow, a young New York socialite, and a frequent passenger of the Lackawanna. For reasons never explained, Miss Snow often travelled to Buffalo, New York, always wearing a white dress.
Main Entry: al·ex·an·der
Pronunciation: \ˌa-lig-ˈzan-dər, ˌe-\
Usage: often capitalized
: an iced cocktail made from crème de cacao, sweet cream, and gin or brandy
(Oxford English Dictionary)
A kind of cocktail.
1930 H. CRADDOCK Savoy Cocktail Book I. 18 Alexander Cocktail, Dry Gin, Crème de Cacao, Sweet Cream.
1951 N. BALCHIN Way through the Wood vii. 98 The sort of places where one always drinks Alexanders.
1958 A. L. SIMON Dict. Wines 55/1 Alexander, (1) gin; Crème de Cacao; cream. Frappé. (2) jigger Rye Whisky; jigger Bénédictine; twist orange peel on top.
3 October 1915, Philadelphia (PA) Inquirer, news section, pg. 11:
The head bartender has even gone so far as to invent an Alexander cocktail, which he is reserving to be served during the World’s Series.
(The Racquet Club. The 1915 World’s Series was won by Boston over Philadelphia. Philadelphia pitcher Grover Cleveland Alexander (1887-1950) was elected to the baseball Hall of Fame in 1938—ed.)
Anthony Trent, Master Criminal
By Wyndam Martyn
New York, NY: Moffat, Yard & Company
Monmouth sauntered into the tap room and demanded an Alexander cocktail. As became a son of Wisconsin, Oscar was free and friendly. The “Alexander’ was (Pg. 246—ed.) a new one on him, he explained, dropping for a moment themes equine.
Where Strange Gods Call:
Pages Out of the East
By Harry Hervey
New York, NY: The Century Co.
The Colonel, however, did not produce a mint julep but an Alexander cocktail, a frothy, cream-colored drink that left a sense of cool white fire in the throat.
26 January 1929, Havana: The Magazine of Cuba, “A Lesson in Cocktails,” pg. 45, col. 1:
The “Alexander” is a cocktail of a fashionable beige shade, and is popular with the ladies; the joke is often on the ladies, however, for it is potent under its innocent white-of-egg face.
21 March 1929, Massillon (OH) Evening Independent, “Your Broadway and Mine” by Walter W. Winchell, pg. 4, col. 3:
“Your recent reference to the Alexander cocktail recalls the incident which caused this drink to be originated,” writes Felix. “Some years ago, during the period when ‘Phoebe Snow’ was being featured in the Lackawanna railroad advertising, the officials of the company arranged for a dinner at Rector’s. Troy Alexander was then associated with the famous place, and to him fell the assignment of planning the dinner in a big way.
“He decided to follow the ‘Phoebe Snow’ idea, in which white was the predominating note. After getting the dinner pretty well laid out, Alexander found himself stuck when it came to concocting a white drink with a lot more potency than milk. For several days he experimented, and finally hit upon the cocktail that bears his name, and which, in case you do not know, may now be had in every country in the world where a mixed drink is available, including, of course, America.”
12 July 1929, Chicago (IL) Daily Tribune, pg. 12:
NEVER HEARD OF IT.
Chicago, July 4.—What are the constituents of an Alexander cocktail?
13 November 1929, New York (NY) Times, pg. 5 ad:
1/3 Holloway’s London Dry, 1/3 Nuyens’ Creme de Cacao, 1/3 Cream. Shake with cracked ice.
(Holloway’s London Dry ad— ed.)
Old Waldorf Bar Days:
With the Cognomina and Composition of Four Hundred and Ninety-one Appealing Appetizers and Salutary Potations Long Known, Admired and Served at the Famous Big Brass Rail; Also, a Glossary for the Use of Antiquarians and Students of American Mores
By Albert Stevens Crockett
Published by Aventine Press
One-third Creme de Cacao
Google News Archive
16 May 1938, St. Petersburg (FL) Evening Independent, “Fair Enough” by Westbrook Pegler, pg. 8, col. 2:
...the Alexander, of creme de cacao, sweet cream and gin;...
My Ten Years in a Quandary and how They Grew
By Robert Benchley
Published by Blue Ribbon Books
That’s what the man said who first drank an Alexander cocktail (one-half gin, one- quarter creme de Cacao, one-quarter sweet cream).
16 June 1941, Tavern Weekly News, “The Barman’s Corner” by Patrick Murphy, pg. 10, col. 4:
Another memo of mine tells me the Alexander Cocktail was named after a bartender who first made this brandy & creme de cacao combination a white hue (with cream) in honor of the Phoebe Snow Birthday Party. Could be.
2 February 1956, Southeast Economist (Chicago, IL), pg. 3, col. 3 ad:
“so good in his before-dinner brandy alexander”
23 December 1956, New York (NY) Times, “Food: ‘Fun With Coffee’” by June Owen, pg. 27:
SERVE a frosty coffee Alexander after dinner on a hot summer evening. Make it simply by pouring two tablespoons of creme de Cacao in the bottom of a table wine glass. Fill almost to the top with strong, ice cold coffee. Mix and float softly whipped cream on top (one serving).
That recipe, and several others for chilled drinks and desserts, are included in “Fun With Coffee,” a handsomely illustrated recipe leaflet prepared by the Pan-American Coffee Bureau.
23 December 1956, New York (NY) Times, “Brewing Up a Demitasse” by Jane Nickerson, pg. 110:
Another way in which cold coffee tastes pleasing even in winter.
2 tablespoons creme de cacao
1/3 cup strong, iced coffee
Unsweetened whipped cream.
Put the creme de cacao in the bottom of a large, stemmed glass. Add coffee. Top with the whipped cream.
30 June 1957, Panama City (FL) News-Herald, “Coffee time...is all the time” by Lillie May Marshall, , Florida Magazine, pg. 12, col. 1 photo caption:
Coffee Alexander is pictured at left front,...
A short, cool after-dinner drink, this is as good as it looks. Pour 2 tablespoons of creme de cacao into the bottom of a table wine glass, then fill it almost to the top with strong, ice-cold coffee. Mix thoroughly, and float on top softly whipped cream. This recipe for 1 glass will be multiplied by the number you are serving.
23 August 1960, Dallas (TX) Morning News, “Recipes of the Day” by Julie Benell, section 3, pg. 2:
For each serving combine in a cocktail shaker, 1 teaspoon instant coffee, 1 ounce creme de cacao, 1 ounce cognac and 1 ounce light cream. Stir until cofee is dissolved, then shake vigorously with crushed ice. Strain into chilled, stemmed glasses.