Here is our cock-tale for November. Follow the links to the story, or if you’re impatient, just skip to the recipe and pictures below.
As a bartender, I would never want to be in the situation in which Max Schulze found himself during the maiden voyage of the Zeppelin Hindenburg – you see, his bar ran out of Gin. While Max was most probably cursing the American passengers who seemed never to have heard of “rationing”, Pauline Charteris came up, true to the fashion of American alc… cocktail aficionados, with an alternate solution. She’d tasted some Kirschwasser on her trip to Germany, and found it somewhat more agreeable than the cheap American gins of the Prohibition*. “Why not substitute Kirsch for Gin”, said Pauline to her hubby. To which his husband replied, “Really now, darling? That’s as absurd as The Saint going to appear in moving pictures.”
The original recipe of Pauline’s Kirschwasser cocktail is now lost to history, along with many of the other recipes from the Hindenburg. As a given, the concoction, designed specifically to replace dry martini on board, probably had Kirschwasser and Vermouth in it. The rest is up to imagination. The German opus “Der Mixologist” by Carl A. Seutter gives a recipe for the Imperial Cocktail (gin, dry vermouth, maraschino) with no gin, but with a few dashes of absinthe included. The Imperial Cocktail has no Kirsch in it, though, and there’s no saying if Schultze was actually familiar with Seutters’ book.
At first, we intended to do a serious historical study, but in the end we discarded this idea – for a better one. Airships.net has made a very reasonable version of Charteris’ drink, calling for only kirsch, vermouth and a dash of grenadine for sweetness. On board the aircraft, with a limited supply, the drink might have been quite as simple as that. But maybe, just maybe, after the voyage Max Schultze went home, and decided there’s more to be had from Pauline’s suggestion**. Maybe he mixed the idea of a Kirsch Martini with a recipe he remembered reading a decade back in a German cocktail book? And maybe while sipping this new cocktail he reminisced on a brief brushing together of lips one night at the Hindenburg’s bar…
And that is where we stop with counterfactual history and get back to the present day. Some time ago, not quite happy with any of the commercially produced orange bitters, Jere made a batch of his own ***, and of course, the difference is like night and day. We wanted to create a recipe to which we could incorporate the self-made bitters, and as we’d been playing around with the idea of the Hindenburg drink, we decided to combine the two. We completely discarded the “dry martini” approach, and tried to find out what would really go well together with the Kirsch. Here’s what we came up with; enjoy.
P.s. For this recipe and many other things, we’d like to thank Dan Grossman, an American aviation specialist – check out his wonderful site about the Hindenburg and Zeppelins in general. Thanks Dan, you’re super and we hope you get to read this!
♦Pauline’s Cherry Lips♦
A jigger (50 ml) of Kirschwasser
A barspoon of dry Vermouth
2 barspoons each of Absinthe and Maraschino liqueur
A dash of orange bitters
Two dashes of Peychaud’s bitters
Maraschino cherry or lemon peel for garnish
Stir and strain in to a cocktail glass.
There are a few things to consider with this drink:
1.) There is a great difference between using lemon peel or cherry for garnish. Both are to be placed in the glass, and the maraschino cherry must not be rinsed.
2.) You could substitute the Maraschino liqueur for Maraschino syrup, in which case definitely use lemon peel for garnish and only one spoonful of maraschino syrup.
3.) If using a less aromatic type of orange bitters, consider two to three dashes. The two dashes of Peychaud’s highlight the absinthe, but also give the drink a beautiful cherry hue.
*In fact, by 1936 many brands had already opened distilleries in the US.
**After about a month of making the drink for the first time, and a few days from writing this post I found out about the Tuxedo Cocktail No.2, featured in the Savoy Cocktail Book. Ironically, the Tuxedo No.2 is very much like Pauline, but instead of Kirsch it has Gin (and no Peychaud’s). There is also the Turf Club Cocktail in the Savoy book, and the difference is that Tuxedo uses London dry gin, whereas the Turf Club calls for Plymouth gin and a few dashes more of absinthe and maraschino. It’s possible that Schulze knew either of these recipes, and made use of them with the Kirschwasser cocktail.
***There is no exact recipe for the orange bitters I made. The most notable features are, that counter to common practice I used no gentian root or extract but there’s some dried sage in it, there’s the peel of about one lemon to three of oranges, and the base spirit is not clear grain alcohol but overproof rum. The choice of spices makes it more an amalgam of aromatic and orange bitters, with a pronounced “bottom”, due to use of rum, a bit of cinnamon and the sage. During the holidays I’ll make another batch and fine tune the recipe. -Jere