Sunday , June 16 2024
Guinness and champagne: together they bring comfort and joy.

Beer Cocktails, Part Two: A Cup of Good Cheer and Bring It Right Here!

We wish you a Merry Christmas
and a Happy New Year.

Good tidings to you, wherever you are.
Good tidings for Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Oh bring us a figgy pudding
and a cup of good cheer.

We won't go until we get some,
so bring it right here.


What to do with those pesky carolers who are demanding a figgy pudding when you don't happen to have one in the fridge? Bring them a cup of good cheer. They won't go away unless you do. But what if you find you are out of wassail? Give them a different beer-based beverage — the Boilermaker. That will shut them right up.


The Boilermaker — a serious beer cocktail. A serious college moniker. The Crawfordsville Daily Argus News of October 26, 1891 headlined, "Slaughter of Innocents: Wabash Snowed Completely Under by the Burly Boiler Makers from Purdue." Boilermakers at the time were synonymous with coal shovelers and stevedores — all names the Purdue team tried on, but the Boilermaker stuck. A boilermaker was a steel worker, then a basic shot and a beer, and then a shot in a beer.


As a cocktail, the Boilermaker made its first film appearance in 1938 in the Warner Brothers movie Gold Diggers in Paris, as a "boilermaker and his helper." There are many variations on this theme. Gin was the shot in the movie. Irish whiskey will make it an Irish car bomb — something not PC in this household. Sake will make the beer into a sake bomb, in an unimaginative turn of phrase.

I do admit that I am intrigued by the October Crisis: a dash of maple syrup in a shot of Canadian whiskey. The shot is then dropped into the requisite Canadian beer. Here in the U.S., the October Crisis tends to denote the Cuban Missile Crisis, but for our northern neighbors, it describes the October 1970 political kidnapping of two Canadian government officials by Quebecois separatists. The kidnapping ended tragically for one victim, and the whole plot did not go as planned, as Quebec is still part of Canada. The October Crisis is a drink that commemorates bad endings all around, which seems appropriate for dropping whiskey into beer.

I had a Boilermaker last night in the interest of science… and researching this blog. I was at a very tony bar — 42 in White Plains, New York. High over the city, 42 boasts one of the best views in the tri-state area. Unfortunately, we were hemmed in by an impenetrable fog, making the view irrelevant. I will have to go back there to try again for the view.

Being that it was a hedge fund crowd, I did not drink my boilermaker in the traditional way. Instead, in a very ladylike way (if ladylike is the correct term for what I do here), I surreptitiously poured my neat Maker's Mark bourbon into my glass of Samuel Smith porter. Sipping rather than chugging — it was all so classy, much more so than "a shot and a beer." For a caroler, however, I suggest dropping the shot into the beer — to save time, of course. There must be songs to be sung.


We'll move on to the marriage of two perfections, champagne and Guinness — the Black Velvet.  Black Velvet can be a blended whiskey. It can be a dramatic pop song by Canadian Allanah Myles (again with the Canadians). Or it can be one of the better of the beer cocktails: sparkling white wine and a stout in a 1:1 ratio. 

Not to be confused with Miller High Life, the Champagne of Beers, the Black Velvet is traditionally thought to be a British drink, created in 1861 in the Brooks club during the nationwide mourning period for Queen Victoria's departed husband. Black Velvet describes the black mourning ribbons men wore around their arms. The drink is also called the Bismarck, especially in Germany. It is named for Otto Von Bismarck, a big fan.

Some recipes call for the champagne to be poured first into a champagne flute. Other recipes call for the stout to go first. The top layer, whether champagne or stout, should be poured over the back of a spoon gently (which I acknowledge is difficult with champagne, which tends to have an energy of its own).

Hopefully, with a steady hand (not a hazard of this business), a layering effect will be produced.  My results met with varying degrees of success. I tried both methods. Gruet first and then the Guinness; then I attempted the reverse. Based on my experiments, laying a base of Guinness first and adding the sparkling wine second leads to a more distinct layering.

Others on the drinking net say that Guinness on tap or even Guinness in a draught can will sit on top of the champagne better than the Guinness in a bottle. I wasn't able to make it happen, but I will keep trying in the name of education. Ultimately, I applaud those who just mash up both ingredients in a large pint glass and drink it down before the Sunday football game, or in this month's case, the holiday brunch!


About Kate Shea Kennon

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