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Cover: Shaken and stirred

Recipes with brandy

28Jul 12

Horse´s Neck, the drink which came from a film

Horse´s NeckOne evening a few weeks ago, I sat on the couch at home and watched an independent film. The lead character was a Polish climber, Jerzy Kuckuzka, who told his story while seated in a pub in London. The whole idea was pretty bizarre, but what really struck me was the drink this guy was ordering: the Horse´s Neck. To be quite honest, I had never even heard of it but decided to investigate further. And this is the mix I want to share with you today.

A Horse´s Neck is an American cocktail that dates back to the 1890s. It started as a non-alcoholic mixture of ginger ale, ice and lemon peel. By the turn of the century, bartenders in Kentucky had a variation to the original, which included brandy –sometimes even bourbon- and which was ordered as a “Horse´s Neck with a kick, please”.

The main ingredient to a Horse´s Neck is brandy. It generally contains 35%-60% alcohol by volume and is typically taken as an after dinner drink. It is one of the strongest drinks around and great for when one feels cold and tired after a long winter´s day, hence the idea of a Polish climber drinking one after another.

Ginger ale is the other major component. Try sipping this cocktail with sugar-free gingerbread, which brings out the ginger flavour even more!

Horse´s Neck became popular in the Royal Navy in the 1960s, displacing Pink Gin as the officer´s signature drink. A reference to this is made in the film Yangtse Incident, in which a naval officer is shown drinking a Horse´s Neck. Strangely enough, it is also ordered in the 1935 classic Top Hat.

A few days after watching the film, I invited some friends over and made Horse´s Necks for everyone. To be quite honest, we had a great evening and have all since become big fans of the cocktail.

Horse´s Neck, the drink which came from a film
Recipe type: Cocktail
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 1
A Horse´s Neck is an American cocktail that dates back to the 1890s
  • 4cl brandy
  • 11cl ginger ale
  • Dash of Angostura bitter (optional)
  1. Pour brandy and ginger ale directly into an old-fashioned glass with ice cubes.
  2. Garnish with lemon zest.
  3. If required, add dashes of Angostura bitter.


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16Jul 12

Brandy Alexander

Brandy AlexanderTraveling by train is, without a doubt, my favourite way of getting around, especially in foreign countries. One very cold January I went from New York to Los Angeles using Amtrak, the sole intercity passenger railroad in the continental United States. After leaving Denver in the evening, I headed for the bar in the second coach, looking for a drink that would warm me up. That was when the bartender offered me a variation of the gin-based Alexander cocktail: a Brandy Alexander.

The Brandy Alexander has a long history. According to various cocktail books, it was first concocted for the wedding celebration of Princess Mary and Lord Lascelles in 1922 by a bartender at the Savoy Hotel Bar in London. By the middle of the century, it had become a widely known cocktail, and it is said that Mary Richards asked for one during her audition in the pilot episode of “The Mary Tyler Moore Show”.

The most important ingredient in a Brandy Alexander is creme de cacao, which is a chocolate flavoured liqueur with hints of vanilla, and what gives the cocktail the sweet edge on a rather strong punch. For this particular cocktail, the dark version of the liqueur is recomended. According to the bartender on the train, it is also a luscious after dinner drink that goes hand in hand with a chocolate lava cake.

The Brandy Alexander has a creamy, warm taste and is perfect for winter evenings, especially if you are looking out the window of a train racing across the rural United States. Although I am not a brandy drinker, this cocktail is the exception to that rule and made that evening a memory I will always cherish.


  • 3cl cognac
  • 3cl dark creme de cacao
  • 3cl brandy
  • Ground nutmeg for garnish

How to make it:
1.Pour the ingredients into a cocktail shaker with ice cubes.
2.Shake well.
3.Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.
4.Garnish with a dusting of nutmeg.

Time: 4 minutes
Makes:1 cocktail

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24Apr 12

Hot Toddy

Hot toddyA few years ago, I decided to join some friends who were working as ski instructors in Austria for a couple of weeks. I was actually on my way back from somewhere hot and wasn’t ready for the cold that hit me when I arrived in Lech. In order to warm myself up, I ran into a bar downtown and ordered a Hot Toddy. Luckily, the bartender was from Bolton and understood my request. He gave me a big smile and said, “There is nothing in the world that compares to a good Hot Toddy on a lousy day, is there lad?”

The Hot Toddy is usually known as a winter beverage made from a distilled spirit (whiskey or brandy preferably), sugar and water. It is believed to be very good for people who have the flu or are feeling under the weather. When I was growing up, sometimes my Dad would tell my Mum that he was not feeling very well. Her reply was always,“Shall I make you a Hot Toddy then, Love?”

As to where the name of the drink comes from, it has been suggested that the name comes from the Toddy drink in India produced by fermenting the sap of Palm trees. The term could have been introduced into Scotland by a member of the British East India Company. Another version says it is believed to have originated in 18th century Scotland as a mixed drink to make Scotch drinks more palatable to women. (This pink scotch drink may be pink, but it is delectable for men and women alike!)

Regardless of where it comes from, when I feel cold and somewhat miserable, a nice Hot Toddy always cheers me up.


  • 3 cl of brandy, whiskey or rum
  • 1 teaspoon of honey
  • 1/4 lemon
  • 1 cup hot water
  • 1 tea bag of your favorite tea
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 star anise

How my Mum used to make it:

  1. Coat the bottom of a mug with the honey.
  2. Add the liquor.
  3. Squeeze in the juice from the lemon.
  4. Heat the cup of water and add the tea bag to make hot tea.
  5. Pour the hot tea into the mug and stir.
  6. Garnish with the cinnamon sticks and anise.

If you’re not a tea drinker, you can substitute coffee or simply add only the hot water.

Time: between 3 and 5 minutes
Makes: 1 tea size mug

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03Apr 12


Sidecar CocktailLast month, a good friend invited me over to France for a couple of days. She has always had a great sense of humour and an undying passion for nights out. This trip, instead of sipping wine, she introduced me to a drink called the Sidecar.

The Sidecar was invented at the Ritz Hotel Bar in Paris during World War I, and was named after a certain captain who liked a tot or two before dinner. One evening at the Ritz, he was feeling under the weather and ordered an aperitif before dinner.

Since brandy was used to combat a cold in those days, the captain thought a little brandy would help. However, he didn’t want it straight, so he suggested that the bartender add lemon juice and Cointreau to lighten it up a little. After a few of them, he realised he was in no shape to drive his motorcycle and decided to get someone to drive him home while he sat in the sidecar, and thus the cocktail earned its name and reputation.

The main ingredient to a Sidecar is brandy, which is a spirit produced by distilling wine. It generally contains between 35 and 60 per cent alcohol by volume and is typically taken as an after dinner drink. The sidecar is considered a strong sour drink, because Cointreau -the other main spirit in it- is a French triple sec that contains around 40 per cent alcoholic volume.

Because of its high alcohol content, I suggest eating something to go with this tipple. If you want to stay with a French theme, try these crepes suzette.

After those few days in Paris, I have become quite a Sidecar fan. Not only because it is very effective if you are feeling under the weather, but also because the story behind the drink is one of the most amusing I have heard so far.


  • 5cl Brandy
  • 2cl Cointreau
  • 2cl lemon juice

How it’s made:

  1. Rim a chilled cocktail glass with sugar.
  2. Pour the ingredients into a cocktail shaker with ice cubes.
  3. Shake for 1 minute.
  4. Strain into the prepared cocktail glass.
  5. Garnish with an orange or lemon slice. (optional)

Time: 5 minutes

Serves: 1 cocktail

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