11. Bismarck cocktail (Black Velvet)

26 Jul

Strange stories were current about their nocturnal carouses, at which none could equal “Mad Bismarck” in emptying the great beaker filled with porter and champagne.

— George Hesekiel, Bismarck: His Authentic Biography (New York: Ford, 1877), p. 134.

I think this mixture [sparkling Moselle, claret and pineapple chunks!] may be triumphantly vindicated against any charge of “confusion”, such as may be brought against others, especially the once celebrated “Bismarck”. Between the flavours of stout and of champagne there is no possible liaison. The former simply overwhelms the latter; and all the wine does is to make the beer more intoxicating and more costly. Thus the thing is at once vicious and vulgar.

— George Saintsbury, Notes on a Cellar-Book (London: Macmillan, 1921), p. 166.

In 1914 the name of that drink was changed to “Black Velvet”. Before then it was known as “Bismarck”.

— Ford Madox Ford, The March of Literature (London: Allen and Unwin, 1947), p. 661.

Fill a goblet with equal parts stout (or, more authentically surely, delicious Schwarzbier) and champagne.

Toast the Kaiser.

Sink your Bismarck.

Here, in one glass, with its combination of earthy, dark Germanic beer and light, effervescent French champagne, is the temporary reconciliation of that centuries-old European struggle between Kultur and Zivilisation. Incidentally, “British Champaign“, at least according to Grose’s Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue (1811), is an old slang term for “porter”.

And here’s a cartoon of Bismarck—note the bottle of champagne and Guinness behind the foaming tankard of his eponymous draught.

From: Punch (13 September 1884), p. 123.


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