That Brandy Alexander sure did taste good on New Year’s Day, but it was the memories associated with the drink that were sweetest.

It was 1978 and I had just worked my shift in the box office at Lakewood Theatre in Madison, where professional actors would come and stay a week in the summer to perform in popular shows.

This particular week, it was “Arsenic and Old Lace,” and two lovely older actors, Louise Kirtland and Anita Webb, of New York City, played the leads.

It was a chilly night on Wesserunsett Lake, and we box office employees joined the actors at the Lakewood Inn after the show, as we did most nights, to socialize, tell stories and get to know each other.

It was a magical time, those theater days, when patrons dressed in their finery traveled from far and wide to see the shows and the atmosphere was filled with music, dance and drama.

We entered the warm inn and sat around low tables in comfy chairs, soaking in the excitement of the evening. That night, Kirtland and Webb were my table mates and we chatted on about everything under the sun. I, being a thin young, 20-something at the time, was cold and shivering from the damp night air, and the glamorous Kirtland noticed my teeth were chattering.


“You need a Brandy Alexander to warm you up, my dear!” she exclaimed.

I knew little about alcoholic drinks, and they all sounded and looked very sophisticated. Kirtland ordered me a Brandy Alexander and it came in a pretty goblet, all chocolaty-looking and topped with a sprinkling of nutmeg. One sip and I was dazzled. Though the brandy was sharp, it warmed my throat and took away the chill.

I never forgot the name of that drink and the way it rolled effortlessly off my tongue when I told stories of Lakewood years later, including those about my friendship with Kirtland and Webb, two fine actresses who liked me so much they invited me to visit them in New York City after they left Lakewood. The following April, I took them up on their offer.

It was an easy trip to the city, since I was attending college in Connecticut and could take the train. I stayed at the Taft Hotel and attended a Broadway show with Kirtland and Webb and then we shared a delightful dinner at Sardi’s restaurant. It was a fun evening, made even more interesting when the actor/comedian Charles Nelson Reilly stopped by our table and, after being introduced to me, kissed my hand. He was a bit in his cups that evening. He and the women bantered and chortled and reminisced, and I just soaked in every minute.

It was just one of many Lakewood memories I carry around with me and that I know will keep me entertained in my old age. I struck up a friendship with the actor Kevin Tighe, from the television show “Emergency!” during my four summers at Lakewood, though I knew nothing of the show when I met him. We shared a love of literature and he introduced me to the works of Flannery O’Connor, whose writings I grew to love. Though he lived in California, he visited New York occasionally. I traipsed around the city with him one weekend and we had a grand time, eating, visiting music stores and watching movies. We also wrote letters back and forth between California and the East Coast, and I still have his letters in my collection of Lakewood memorabilia.

There was the evening Milton Berle joined a handful of us for a lobster dinner in one of the Lakewood cottages and we stayed up until about 4 a.m., Berle telling us stories about Vaudeville and keeping us entertained. He was very social and most generous with his time, and I think he loved Lakewood, and us.


I was invited to dinner one evening at the inn by Farley Granger, an actor who starred in the play “Count Dracula.” He was a friendly, personable man and knowledgeable about all sorts of things. I didn’t really know much about him at the time, but in the years since I’ve seen him in old movies and remember our wonderful dinner at the inn.

John Raitt, father to Bonnie, was a lot of fun, as were Lynn Redgrave, Imogene Coca, Sylvia Sidney, Della Reese and Maureen O’Sullivan, Mia Farrow’s mother. And Lana Turner was just plain elegant.

A few years ago, when the bookstore Mr. Paperback was closing in Skowhegan and its contents were selling for a song, my husband bought a little book about mixed drinks, thinking we might like to try making them sometime.

I didn’t look at that book until the holidays this past year and, perusing its pages, came upon a recipe for Brandy Alexanders, which called for 1 ounce of brandy, 1 ounce of dark creme de cacao and an ounce of cream — and a pinch of nutmeg.

I vowed to purchase the ingredients and serve Brandy Alexanders to our New Year’s weekend guests, an old college friend from Connecticut and his wife, who now live in Massachusetts.

I told them the story of Kirtland and Webb and the one and only time I ever had a Brandy Alexander, at Lakewood, and showed them a picture of three of us in New York City, smiling under the lights of 44th Street.

I took out the shaker my husband bought a few years ago but never used, tossed in some ice, added the cream, creme de cacao and brandy, shook it up, poured it into elegant little glasses and sprinkled nutmeg on top.

That warm, smooth taste brought back all those fond memories — of Kirtland and Webb, now long gone; of Lakewood, New York City, the theater and the magic. What great days they were and what sweet memories to savor during these long, cold, dark days of winter.

Amy Calder has been a Morning Sentinel reporter for 29 years. Her column appears here Mondays. She may be reached at For previous Reporting Aside columns, go to

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