Saturday, February 23, 2013

Hot and Soothing Café Alexander

A very warm welcome to J.J. Murphy, author of the clever and witty Algonquin Round Table Mysteries. A FRIENDLY GAME OF MURDER is the third book in the series.

And now, here's J.J.!

Baby, it’s cold outside!

And it’s even colder inside... Inside the walk-in freezer in the sub-basement of the Algonquin Hotel, that is. That’s where Dorothy Parker and her longtime friend Robert Benchley find themselves. (Mrs. Parker and Mr. Benchley are the romantically entangled and sharply witty protagonists of the Algonquin Round Table Mysteries.) They eventually escape from that icy chamber with the help of Alexander Woollcott, a fellow member of the Algonquin Round Table.
In real life, Alexander Woollcott was an acerbic dramatic critic, the role model for the title character in the play “The Man Who Came to Dinner,” and he tried to take credit for the Brandy Alexander cocktail. He liked to say, "All the things I really like to do are either immoral, illegal, or fattening." Not a bad philosophy. It worked well for him, at any rate.

Now, let’s address the question at hand: What should you have after an unexpected and prolonged confinement in a walk-in freezer?
      Hot tea? That would certainly warm you up. But it’s not very indulgent. After all, you nearly died from hypothermia. Time to live a little!
      Hot chocolate? Indulgent, certainly. Still, it’s rather tame for such a momentous occasion.
      Hot soup? Yes, that might hit the spot. But then again, you need to warm up fast. Slurping spoonfuls soup is not exactly a speedy solution.
      Hot coffee? You’re getting warmer. It could warm you up, and perk you up. But again, coffee is your average Joe. It lacks that something special.

How about a nice hot -- Café Alexander?

What’s Café Alexander, you ask? It’s the perfect piping-hot beverage that Alexander Woollcott serves to Dorothy and Benchley after he sets them free from the freezer. It’s a coffee drink (perfect for perking you up) with a splash of brandy (to calm and soothe your nerves), and a dollop of whipped cream and a sprinkle of nutmeg (for an indulgent somethin’ special). Thus, it’s a coffee variation of a Brandy Alexander cocktail.

Sounds good, right? Yes, indeedy--not exactly immoral, illegal or fattening (not much anyhow), but it fits the bill.

How’s it made, you ask? Alexander Woollcott had to use the tools he had at hand--a sausage grinder to grind the coffee beans and the nutmeg, a pot to boil the water, a spaghetti strainer for a coffee filter, and so forth. Luckily, if you have a coffee maker and the right ingredients, you probably have all you need:

      Pour a mug of piping hot coffee (the stronger, the better) about three-quarters full.
      Add a splash of brandy (or cognac). A “splash” can be as little or as much as you like. (If you don’t exactly know what you like, start with one ounce. If you have no brandy--well, you could substitute whiskey or scotch, but you’re heading into dangerous territory, my friend.)
      Add about an ounce or so of light cream. (Half & half will do, but it won’t be as indulgently creamy, of course.)
      Add at least a tablespoon of sugar, or more if you like.
      Top with a dollop of whipped cream (optional) and a dusting of nutmeg. (Freshly grated nutmeg is best, but sprinkled from the jar is perfectly acceptable.)

Pretend you’ve just been rescued from a walk-in freezer, and enjoy!



It’s New Year’s Eve at the Algonquin Hotel. But it’s not such a joyous occasion for Dorothy Parker. She merely wants a midnight kiss from her friend Robert Benchley. Then her colleague Alexander Woollcott draws her into a parlor game of "Murder"—with dire consequences!

The game turns all too serious when the naked body of a Broadway starlet is found dead in the penthouse bathroom. And the bathroom door was locked from the inside! Fortunately (or unfortunately) the entire hotel is quarantined, so Dorothy, Benchley and Woollcott—along with hotel guest Sir Arthur Conan Doyle—are stuck inside with the murderer. Now all they have to do is figure out "who done it"… while Dorothy still has to figure out how to get that midnight kiss!


  1. Sounds perfect for this freezing weather we've been having. All I need to go with it is a book about A Friendly Game of Murder. Sounds very scary!


  2. "All the things I really like to do are either immoral, illegal, or fattening." - What he said. :) Plus the coffee. Fun post, J.J., and congrats on the new release (and Dorothy's new case)!

  3. Spiked coffee? What could be better? Well, I might add a touch of chocolate...

  4. Aaah, Lucy, Krista and Cleo, I'm having a Cafe Alexander right now...! Wish you could join me. Cheers just the same!

  5. Libby, yes! Add chocolate. Now you're talking.

  6. A brandy Alexander calls for dark creme de cocoa. That would help with the chocolate-ness.

  7. JJ, too delish. I think I have to lock myself in a freezer tonight to justify the drink. Oh, can't wait. Yum!

    Daryl aka Avery

  8. Daryl, locking yourself in a freezer is merely suggested but not required. Step outside for a minute with no jacket. That'll do. Cheers!

  9. What a fun post! You do Dorothy proud, J.J. I love the books. Now where's my brandy? (I'll skip the freezer experience and go straight to the drink)

    MJ aka Victoria Abbott