Showing posts with label brandy Alexander. Show all posts
Showing posts with label brandy Alexander. Show all posts

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!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Guest Blogger: J.J. Murphy!

Hello, friends, and Happy New Year!  Please join me in welcoming the wildly cool and enviably brilliant J.J. Murphy to the Kitchen ... J.J.'s Algonquin Round Table Mystery series launched last January with Murder Your Darlings.  The most recent, You Might as Well Die, came out last month.  They're delightful must-reads for cozy fans as well as lovers of historical fiction, traditional mysteries, and generally clever prose.

Potent Potables from Prohibition

You know Dorothy Parker, don’t you? Even if you don’t, you probably do. She was a writer, poet and critic who came to fame in New York in the 1920s. Nowadays, she’s better known for her wisecracks than her writing, such as, “Men seldom make passes at girls who wear glasses” and “That woman speaks eighteen languages, and can’t say No in any of them.” She was one of the few women members of the Algonquin Round Table—a group of critics, writers and wits who traded quips and insults over lunch every day at the Algonquin Hotel. “It was the 20s,” Dorothy said, and “we had to be smarty.”

She was a thinker and a drinker. (And in my Algonquin Round Table Mystery series, she is also an amateur detective.) You may have heard this little rhyme, attributed to her:

I love a martini—
But two at the most.
Three, I’m under the table.
Four, I’m under the host.

Robert Benchley, Dorothy’s dear friend and another member of the Algonquin Round Table, also loved a martini. He’s known for this famous line: “Why don’t you get out of those wet clothes and into a dry martini?” Good idea, Mr. Benchley! To that end, here’s the recipe for a classic martini. Take note that it’s only 3 ounces of liquid, compared to the 7-ounce or mammoth 10-ounce cocktails that bartenders serve today. That’s how they did it back then. It was small enough that the drink stayed chilled until you finished it.

Classic Martini

2 1/2 oz gin
1/2 oz dry vermouth
1 green olive or lemon twist for garnish

Pour the ingredients into a cocktail shaker half filled with ice cubes. Stir or shake for one minute. Strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with the olive or lemon twist.

Dorothy Parker also wrote:

Three be the things I shall never attain:
Envy, content, and sufficient champagne.

You don’t need an event like New Year’s to enjoy Champagne or sparkling wine. Any night can be worthy of some bubbly. Try this flavorful twist on Champagne:

Champagne Cocktail

1 sugar cube
2 dashes of Angostura bitters
Lemon twist

Drop the sugar cube into a champagne glass and soak it with the bitters. Fill the rest of the glass with champagne. Garnish with the lemon twist. Option: add an ounce of cognac.

Alexander Woollcott, an acerbic member of the Round Table and the role model for the title character in the play “The Man Who Came to Dinner,” 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."  This cocktail satisfied just about all those requirements during the Prohibition era:

Brandy Alexander

1 1/2 oz brandy
1 oz creme de cacao (brown or dark)
1 oz half-and-half
1/4 tsp grated (or ground) nutmeg

Shake the liquid ingredients together in a cocktail shaker half filled with ice cubes. Strain it into a cocktail glass or small brandy snifter. Garnish with the nutmeg.

Cheers to 2012!

In YOU MIGHT AS WELL DIE, J.J. Murphy’s latest Algonquin Round Table Mystery, Dorothy Parker and Robert Benchley try to figure out why a second-rate illustrator jumped off the Brooklyn Bridge. Meanwhile, they’re busy scrounging up enough money to pay off their bar tab at their favorite speakeasy—and debunking Halloween séances with Harry Houdini.