As one of the most successful songwriters in history, John Lennon set more than a few trends over the course of his illustrious career. And while he’s best known for his groundbreaking musical endeavors and eclectic fashion, Lennon’s taste for alcohol was as legendary as his quick wit.
Ringo ordered the boys a round of “lagers and lime” in the movie “Help,” and the group grew to enjoy fine wine over the years. This is evident in the lyrics from “Norwegian Wood,” where Lennon writes that he was biding his time and “drinking her wine.”
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But the cocktail most associated with the outspoken musician is the Brandy Alexander. Lennon was introduced to the creamy Cognac concoction by fellow singer-songwriter Harry Nilsson, best known for his hit “Everybody’s Talkin’,” on March 12, 1974 at the Troubadour nightclub in West Hollywood, Calif.
The evening in question is a notorious moment in Hollywood history, when Lennon and Nilsson quaffed down a few too many of the chocolate “milkshakes,” as the Beatle was fond of calling the delicious drinks, and began to heckle the Smothers Brothers comedy show that was performing on stage. (The Smothers Brothers, Thomas and Richard, were a dynamic duo known for their combination of comedic arguments, folk songs, and their tendency to challenge television censors and ruffle establishment feathers with political statements.)
When the taunting got out of hand, security came in to remove the two troublemakers, and a scuffle ensued. Punches were reportedly thrown, and Lennon lost his signature circular spectacles in the brawl.
The rocker apologized profusely and later sent flowers to the comedians, who graciously forgave his behavior. Tommy Smothers, the elder of the brothers, was a friend of Lennon’s, having played acoustic guitar with Lennon on “Give Peace a Chance,” and a friend of Nilsson’s as well.
Following the incident, Smothers told entertainment publication Bullz-Eye that Nilsson was urging Lennon to harass the performers by saying, “Tom likes hecklers,” and that Lennon took the bait. Years later, on the British television show the “Old Grey Whistle Test” in 1975, Lennon admitted to host Bob Harris, “I got drunk and shouted,” adding, “It was my first night on Brandy Alexander, that’s brandy and milk, folks.”
While Lennon had the right idea, the ingredients of his “milkshake” that night were likely Cognac, creme de cacao, and fresh cream — the keys to a luxurious Brandy Alexander.
Lennon’s incidental introduction aside, the Brandy Alexander went on to become the iconic musician and social justice advocate’s favorite cocktail. It still enjoys its popularity today and is consistently found on lists of the best drinks in the world.