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Brandy Alexander
The author's frozen Brandy Alexander. Photo by Ryan Woldt
Cheers! North CountyColumnsFood & Wine

Cheers! North County: Ice cream drinks

Many moons ago, I took a bartending job at a supper club called Mariner’s. They had been around for decades and were famous for two things: Friday night fish fry and ice cream drinks.

The first order on my very first shift came in for a Brandy Alexander. The Brandy Alexander is a classic drink traditionally made with a fine cognac or brandy, creme de cacao and cream. At Mariner’s, they substituted ice cream for the cream and topped it with whipped cream and a dash of nutmeg.

“Where is the blender?” I asked my trainer.

“We do it by hand here,” he replied handing me a mixing cup, scoop and a steak knife. I’m sure my face held a mixed expression of shock and fear as he directed me to the five-gallon ice cream cartons in the blisteringly cold freezer under the far end of the bar.

The ice cream was frozen solid. I chipped away at it with the knife — like I was trying to break through the nearby frozen lake for an ice fishing session.

Ice fishing is an insane hobby…err…heralded tradition in the Midwest where you drill or chip a hole in a frozen lake. Drop a fishing line through it. Then wait until a fish comes along. Sometimes they build little ice shanties to wait for it.

Bit by bit the ice cream came loose. I filled up the mixing cup and poured in the house brandy and cream de cacao. I began mashing the ice cream with the scoop then switched to an oversized fork. Sweat was beading on my forehead.

Finally, I had a smooth enough mixture which I poured into a martini glass, topped it with a dollop of whipped cream and dash of nutmeg. I handed it to an elderly woman smiling at me from across the bar to the elderly woman.

The trainer handed me another order ticket. Five more Brandy Alexanders. He was openly laughing at me now. I headed back to the freezer to begin chipping away.

Brandy Alexander
Preparing a Brandy Alexander with some scoops of vanilla ice cream. Photo by Ryan Woldt

By the end of the night, I was exhausted. I went home, iced my shoulder and composed a very polite resignation letter. I promised myself I would never make another ice cream drink again.

But this week it has been hot. So hot I wanted ice cream. I wanted ice cream with booze in it. I wanted a Brandy Alexander.

There was already Courvoisier (cognac) in the liquor cabinet and a vanilla bean ice cream in the fridge. I was only missing the creme de cacao, but I decided to substitute in Kahlua. The coffee flavor would mix well with the sweetness of the cognac.

Unlike that day at Mariner’s, I would not mix this by hand. I scooped a half cup of ice cream into the blender, and carefully measured out a single shot of Courvoisier and 3/4 ounce of Kahlua. Then I added an extra splash to the mix, and blended away.

What I was left with was an ice-cold, creamy cocktail. I poured it into a mason jar, dashed some nutmeg, and took a sip. Success! Oh my! Vanilla, coffee, and the spice intertwined by the sweet alcohol flavor of the cognac.

I moved outside into the heat, and collapsed into a lounge chair. Any residual resentment I had held towards ice cream drinks or Mariner’s faded away with each sip of the icy desert, and I found myself wondering,

Would it be better if I tried mixing it by hand?

Tomorrow, Mudslides!

Frozen Brandy Alexander Recipe:

  • 1/2 cup vanilla ice cream
  • 1-ounce brandy or cognac
  • 3/4 ounce white cream de cacao
  • 1/4 cup crushed ice (optional)
  • A dollop of whipped cream and dash of nutmeg (optional)


  • Mix ice cream, brandy and cream de cacao in a blender until mixed.
  • If using crushed ice, add and process until smooth
  • Garnish with whip cream and nutmeg. Serve immediately.

Don’t forget to listen to the latest Cheers! North County Podcast with guest Yiga Miyashiro the Director of Brewing Operations at Saint Archer Brewing Company to talk about mentorship in the industry, his journey including stops at Lost Abbey and Pizza Port, and how things have changed or stayed the same since Saint Archer was acquired by MillerCoors (now Molson Coors) in 2015.

Check out the new Coast News Podcast directory to listen to all of the Coast News Podcasts including weekly news recap Headlines and The North County Beat with host Kelli Kyle providing in-depth exploration and analysis of the issues impacting North County San Diego.

Brandy Alexander
Voila! Brandy Alexander. Photo by Ryan Woldt


Patrick J Gee August 26, 2020 at 2:19 pm

News that I can – and will – use. More recipes, please!

Ryan Woldt August 28, 2020 at 1:11 pm

Will do Patrick!

Meghan Williams August 25, 2020 at 1:28 pm

Yum!!! Gonna have to try that one!

Comments are closed.