Alexander, part 2: Hold the Cream!

It seems like we can’t let go of the Alexander, and the riddle it presents: How to counter its obscene sweetness? And how about skipping the cream? A small study of balance and obscure ways to lend it.

We have covered the Alexander before, and we found that there isn’t much of an upside to it. Too sweet to allow the ingredients to interact with each other, and hardly any trace of the spirit to be detected. The Japanese variation we covered last time tinkers with this problem using the famed hard shake and an intelligent choice of ingredients.

Today, however, we present a recipe that forgoes the cream completely, and is noticeably drier. To make this work, though, the Alexander needs translating into a different cocktail category, and a few smart ruses.

A two-piece with a pinch of balance

Hardly any of our esteemed readers will be shocked by the idea of adding salt to a cocktail. Dave Arnold, for example, adds it to practically every cocktail in his book Liquid Intelligence, in order to make the flavour pop. Salt, however, is not just a mere flavour enhancer, it can also help to cushion the sweetness of a drink.

The two-piece category, that is, cocktails made from but a spirit and a sweetener, benefit particularly from the addition of salt. For the Old Fashioned we use bitters to bring about balance; for the two two-piece cocktails the salt helps prevent them from tasting flat. A perfect example for this is Remy Savage’s marvellous Paper Anniversary, a drink mixed with gin, his notorious paper-flavoured syrup and a pinch of salt.

Not your average chilli-mint Alexander

While our considerations of balance so far have only focused on the five tastes, there are more possibilities: Menthol and capsaicin, for example, provoke a pain sensation, which in small amounts aids in establishing balance. Take the Art of the Choke, for example, where the mint adds another dimension; or the Moscow Mule, which probably would not be so popular were it not for the gingerol. A gingered chilli-mint Alexander, however, does sound more like a failed stag night than a serious cocktail. We shall thus resort to the category of Fernets, a mentholated breed of Amaro of which Fernet Branca is the most famous, but not the only exponent.

Hold the Cream!

As stated at the beginning, the problem with the Alexander is the lack of balance, but to use citrus juices or vermouths to amend this seems quite unfitting. The following recipe thus employs the ideas of salt and menthol to bring about balance in the Alexandrian cocktail carousel.

But first let’s castle the original ingredients: Instead of gin or brandy we use an Oude Jenever here, and in lieu of the crème de cacao we add a combination of Mozart Dry and Galliano Autentico. Mozart Dry is an unsweetened cocoa distillate from Austria, and Galliano Autentico a Tuskan herbal liqueur with notes of vanilla, anise and saffron. The combination of the two liquors lends the obligatory aromas of cacao and vanilla to the cocktail, and a restrained sweetness. Add a dash of sugar syrup for texture, and a pinch of salt for balance and good luck.

Before we’re done, however, there’s one last thing: The salt is not enough to counter the sweetness. This is the time to use the Fernet, the menthol and bitterness of which adds the final touch to our convoluted Alexander.