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The Jefferson Journal is JPR's members' magazine featuring articles, columns, and reviews about living in Southern Oregon and Northern California, as well as articles from NPR. The magazine also includes program listings for JPR's network of radio stations.

Shake Gently


  It was a dark and drizzly night when we arrived about 15 minutes fashionably late at a friend’s house for a holiday party. Greeted, and coats taken away, the sounds of lively conversation and laugher filled the living room, but seeing that all the cushy seats were taken we headed into the kitchen. A large table in a window nook was filled with goodies and hors d’oeuvres reflecting colorfully in the glass...but then I spied the kitchen counter cluttered with numerous bottles of exotic liqueurs. Grabbing a couple of nibbles I walked toward the counter. There, Mark, our host for the evening, rattled off a list of drinks available. Having spent most of my life correcting people in the spelling and mispronunciation of my name, Bandy, when usually it’s spelled or pronounced ‘brandy’ and, because of my curiosity for trying something new, I opted for a Brandy Alexander. A sweet drink, rich with dark crème de cacao and the original eau-de-vie brandy, which dates back to the 7th century, would be my water-of-life for the evening. Little did I know it would become the life of the party. 

My eau-de-vie went down rather nicely, so awhile later I sought a second, joining a conversation in the kitchen doorway while I waited. Suddenly the shaker landed at my feet, my Brandy Alexander now a milky puddle on the floor. Everyone laughed and with Mark on his hands and knees with towel in hand, mopped up the puddle. Soon after I noticed the shaker moving around the kitchen appearing in various people’s hands. Once again, my curiosity stirred, I wondered what was up with the shaker containing my drink. So moving toward the shaker action, I learned my eau-de-vie was ‘caught-in-the-can’ and was being passed around to people trying to open it.

What ensued was live comedic theater, the likes of which Alexander the Great would have been proud. Everyone had a different idea of how to get the lid unstuck, each vying to be the conqueror of the can—running it under hot water, running it under cold water, gently tapping on the edge of the counter, hard tapping on the edge of the counter, knocking it on the floor. Well it opened once when it hit the floor, why not again! Someone even held it over a candle flame. There were different techniques of holding and gripping—one person holding the shaker, another tapping around it with varying instruments trying to loosen it up. It was even gripped between kneecaps using both hands to turn. The shaker containing my eau-de-vie became akin to the Gordian Knot and Mark took it upon himself to get it open. He headed outside with the shaker in one hand, a hammer in the other.

The lid still didn’t come off but the little knob on the very top did and although the liquid had to be maneuvered out the small whole on the top I was soon presented, accompanied by ceremonious laughter, my Brandy ala Mark. My stomach tight from laughing so much, I found a comfy seat in the living room and started sipping. In a fairly short time, I was offered a refill of my now less than full glass and noticed the lid was off. Who, how, I asked? Interestingly, I was told that my husband, who had been in the living room, and oblivious to what was going on with the shaker in the kitchen walked in and saw them still struggling to get the lid off. The story became a favorite of the night and as legend has it he took the shaker and with a simple turn removed the lid. I was told he calmly handed it back and walked away completely unaware of what all the fuss was about.

Like Alexander who tamed a wild horse with gentleness and then rode it to conquer vast lands, we humans each have our own individual ways of doing things. I’d like to believe that gentleness will always win out, but maybe sometimes we must loosen things up first. If you are so inspired the spirited cocktail calendar has January 31 listed as National Brandy Alexander Day. Perhaps it’s time you too became a legend in your own time....

Brandy Alexander


  • 2 oz Cognac or other fine aged brandy
  • 1 oz Dark crème de cacao
  • 1 oz Cream or Half & Half

Garnish: Freshly grated nutmeg
Glass: martini or golden goblet


Add all the ingredients to a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake, pour into beautiful chilled glass. Garnish with freshly grated nutmeg.

Imbibe languidly with special friends...you will rule the world even if only for awhile.