Dining Out

50 Years of Family Recipes at Sperry’s

By: Erin Byers Murray

Belle Meade’s iconic steakhouse, Sperry’s, is looking back—and moving forward

For 50 years, Sperry’s has held a special kind of IYKYK amongst Nashville diners—whether you’re going for the convivial, clubby English Tudor-styled dining room, the ice-cold martinis and salad plates, or the ribeye and bananas foster, Sperry’s is, and has always been, a vibe. Originally opened by brothers Houston and Dick Thomas, and now run by Houston’s son, Al, the two-location steakhouse is marking its five decades by expanding with Café Sperry’s, serving coffee and grab-and-go items, and a new location of Sperry’s Mercantile in Bellevue. Here, we asked Al Thomas to share a little bit about how the menu has evolved and about one of the restaurant’s long-standing favorites: the Brandy Alexander Pie.

The Inside Scoop on the Sperry’s Menu

original founders of Sperry's

Erin Byers Murray: Talk a little bit about the original menu and who helped develop the recipes when Sperry’s first opened?
Al Thomas: My parents, Houston and Sue Thomas were original “foodies” back in the ’60s. Mom and Dad always had cookbooks out and experimented with recipes. Dad was also a prolific grillman, so the idea of a steakhouse was a natural choice. I would say my father and mother had the most influence on the original Sperry’s menu since it basically evolved from the Brass Scales menu, which was the prior restaurant in that location owned by my father, Jerry Baxter, and Bill Hale.

EBM: How were the recipes passed along over the years?
AT: The recipes for Sperry’s were both somewhat loosely situated and closely guarded. Many of the recipes were made at home by either my mother or co-owners Dick and Judy Thomas, my uncle and aunt. The kitchen prep workers did not have access to those recipes. [After attending Hotel Restaurant School at Denver University and several years in the business], I bought Sperry’s in 2000 [and] worked to organize all of the recipes into a consistent industry standard format so they were easy to reproduce and remained as consistent as possible. I spent hours with my parents or at my uncle’s house learning those recipes.

EBM: How did the menu at Sperry’s evolve?
AT: I always felt like there was a culinary “competition” between my father and my uncle (wives included). As a result of that, and maybe why the recipes were made at their homes, multiple items moved on and off the menu over the years. Rather than reprint the menus, these experiments would be added as clip-ons. This was sort of a proving ground as well as a competition to see what worked. I think the most important addition was the 6-ounce bacon-wrapped filet. That quickly became the number one seller and was followed by the blue cheese stuffed bacon-wrapped filet that later was named after Prince William, who ordered that during a visit to Sperry’s in 2002. The idea of stuffing the filet with blue cheese came from a visit to a restaurant in Chicago, where my parents frequently visited.

Sperry's historic sign and exterior of the building

EBM: Tell us about the backstory of the Brandy Alexander Pie.
AT: Coincidentally, I was at the wake for the original general manager Jerry Baxter this past Sunday. There is a great obituary in the Tennessean written by master restaurateur and very close friend to Jerry, Randy Rayburn. At the wake was the original Sperry’s menu, which had Brandy Alexander Pie in the dessert section. I know that my mother really loved the frozen drink, Brandy Alexander, and I always felt that she modified the drink into the pie, however a quick Google search reveals that in January 1970, The New York Times published a recipe for Brandy Alexander Pie. It was an unassuming confection: a graham-cracker crust filled with a wobbly, creamy mousse and enough alcohol to raise the hair on your neck and then make your neck wobbly too. Since Mom and Dad were avid NY Times readers, it makes sense that the recipe evolved from [there]. However, Mom substituted crushed chocolate wafers and later an Oreo cookie crumb crust in place of the graham cracker crust, which makes more sense to me. 

EBM: Where can guests find it now?
AT: My sister Anne Clayton, who handles all of the prepared take-home products at The Mercantile, is working to bring the Brandy Alexander Pie recipe back to the menu. The [Mercantile’s] new location is double the size of the space we currently have next to Sperry’s. The pie can be frozen, and actually likes to be very cold at service due to its creamy texture, so it will be a good fit with the added freezer space and expanded dessert selections at the Bellevue location.

Until the pie returns to the menu or the freezer case, you can find the full recipe here.

Sperry's Brandy Alexander Pie

recipe heading-plus-icon


Makes 4 (3-inch) tarts

    For the crust:
  • 22 regular Oreo cookies (about 125 grams)
  • 5 tablespoons butter, melted
  • For the filling:
  • ¾ cup heavy cream
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon plain gelatin
  • 2 tablespoons warm water
  • ¼ cup brandy
  • Pinch of nutmeg
  • ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Sweetened whipped cream for garnish
  • Special equipment: 9-inch pie pan

Make the Pie Crust

  1. In food processor, pulse cookies until finely chopped. Set aside 1 tablespoon for garnish. In a medium bowl, combine remaining cookies with melted butter. Press crumbs into and up sides of a 9-inch pie pan. Place pan in refrigerator while making the filling.

Make the Filling

  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with whisk attachment, or using handheld beaters, whip cream until stiff peaks form. Set aside and clean out bowl. Add egg yolks to bowl and whisk until light and pale yellow. Gradually beat in sugar.
  2. Add gelatin and warm water to a small saucepan and place over low heat. Stir gently until gelatin melts.
  3. With mixer running on low speed slowly add gelatin, brandy, nutmeg, and vanilla to egg yolks. Fold in whipped cream, making sure no white streaks are visible. Do not over mix. Pour filling into pie shell. Cover and chill at least 2 hours.

To Serve

  1. Carefully slice cake and garnish each slice with a dollop of sweetened whipped cream. Sprinkle some of the reserved cookie crumbs over top.

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