Phoebe Snow. Heard of her? If you lived in the turn of the 20th century, you would.
She was the first fictional character in advertising history created to promote a way of traveling that was associated with an alcoholic beverage. Think of her like the ‘most interesting’ Dos Equis guy, OG style.
In the early 1900s, train travel was dirty—literally. Due to coal-fueled trains you’d just expect to arrive at your destination covered in soot. One particular railroad company began to use clean-burning anthracite. Riding the train was no longer a detriment to your wardrobe or your social life. And they wanted to get the word out.
Hello, Phoebe Snow. Dressed in all-white from head to toe, she was the ambassador of this new ‘clean’ way of train travel. What would the lady be drinking? An Alexander, naturally, due to its white-as-snow appearance.
Made of equal parts gin, cream and creme de cacao, shaken and served in coupe glass, the Alexander was credited to bartender Troy Alexander. He created it for a dinner to celebrate the railroad company’s successful Phoebe Snow marketing campaign at Rector’s, a fancy lobster joint in New York City. Another theory behind Alexander’s creation is to honor Grover Cleveland Alexander, the Philadelphia team pitcher playing in the 1915 World Series.
However, the most popular version of the Alexander cocktail today, the Brandy Alexander, didn’t arrive on the scene until a few decades later.
First appearing in print in 1937, in William J Tarling’s Cafe Royal Cocktail Book, the Brandy Alexander has all the goodness of the original, but swaps gin for brandy. Around the same time, egg was introduced for a flip style Alexander. Ice and coffee were added to the recipe in the 1960s—an early boozy frappuccino, no doubt.
And its relevance in pop culture prevails today, too. In the 1962 film, The Days of Wine and Roses, the cocktail plays the catalyst of love and sadly, disastrous despair. In the Mary Tyler Moore pilot episode, Mary requests, inappropriately so, a Brandy Alexander during a job interview. To signify his identity to an informant he was meeting, James Bond slides up to the bar and asks for a Brandy Alexander in the short story, Risico. And there’s even a recent song tribute: In the 2007 song titled, Brandy Alexander, Evan Feist croons, “He’s my Brandy Alexander, always gets me into trouble, but that’s another matter, Brandy Alexander.”
Obviously, this Pre-Prohibition cocktail has stood the test of time for a reason. For your next fete where white, beige or ecru is the theme color or you’re just looking for an elegant post-dinner drink to serve, try the Alexander.
Argonaut Brandy Alexander
- 1 1/4 oz. Argonaut Brandy of Choice
- 1 oz. Crème de Cacao
- 3/4 oz. heavy cream
- Fresh grated nutmeg
Preparation: Add ingredients to a cocktail shaker filled with ice and shake. Strain into a chilled coupe, and garnish with freshly grated nutmeg.