Special thanks to Airships.net and full credit to the work they have done in this area providing research and inspiration for the article.
Top: A Photo of the Smoking Room & Airlock, Right: Painting of the Smoking Lounge Below: A second painting of the Smoking Lounge – note the bottle of Benedictine in both paintings.
The first commercial flight of the Hindenburg Airship to North America took place on the 6-9th May 1936. This luxurious floating cruise-liner carried many notable persons for its “maiden flight”. Aboard the Hindenburg Airship was a dining room, a reading room and, perhaps unexpectedly, a smoking room. This was a pressurised space and was only accessible via an airlock. It was equipped with one electric lighter and before you got to the smoking room you had to pass through a small ante chamber that contained the cocktail bar. It is thought that there were some cocktails designed specifically for the Hindenburg’s Bar; few details exist, but here are some drinks inspired by the information I have found.
#1) Kirsch Martini
The story behind this is that, on the maiden flight, during an evening party the bar ran out of gin (a travesty indeed) and so one of the innovative passengers on board suggested substituting kirsch for gin. This individual was Mrs Pauline Charteris (née) Schishkin, the first wife of Leslie Charteris (creator of Simon Templar, aka “The Saint”).
10ml Dry Vermouth
Dash of Grenadine
I’m not sure why the grenadine was included, but I think the touch of sweetness just takes the edge of the extreme dryness of the kirsch. This is a very dry “Martini”, but it still seems balanced. It is very clean and quite smooth, with a finish of dry cherries and a touch of cream. The warmth of the drink builds as you sip. I’ve never tried this before, but I shall certainly have it again.
#2) Old Fashioned
Another cocktail known to be served on the Hindenburg was the Old Fashioned; these typically preceded the passenger’s evening meal . This recipe comes from The Last Supper Club:
Dissolve a small lump of sugar in a little water in a whiskey glass.
Add 2 dashes of Angostura Bitters.
Add an ice cube, a piece of lemon peel and one jigger whiskey.
Mix with a small bar spoon and serve, leaving the spoon in the glass.
Excellent for stimulating the appetite it’s obvious why these were served before dinner. Smooth with a hint of sweet and smoke. Sipping one of these while floating across the Atlantic would be the height of luxury.
The Maybach 12 Cocktail: with Kirsch, Adler Gin and (pride of place) Benedictine.
There was a cocktail called the “Maybach 12” that was served on the Hindenburg the recipe of which has been lost to history. Here is my recipe inspired by the bar on the Hindenburg. In the two paintings of the smoking room (and the photo of the bar) a bottle of Benedictine is clearly visible, so it could be argued that this was a popular drink on board. The gin and kirsch come from the story of cocktail #1.
20ml Adler Berlin Gin (Dry Gin)
Add ingredients to an old-fashioned glass, add a large ice cube and stir.
It took a little time to get the balance of the Maybach 12 right; initially, I used equal parts, but it was too sweet. The final result is a light golden liquid that start of slightly bitter and then quickly moves to being sweet and herbal, finishing up with the dryness of the juniper and kirsch. There is a long finish of dry cherry and a faint hint of sugar.
The Maybach 12 Cocktail would make a great aperitif, as it really increases your appetite.
4) LZ-129 Frosted Cocktails
This cocktail is known to have been served by bartender Max Schulze on the Hindenburg and is named after the airship’s registration number. Fresh orange juice is certainly better than concentrate when mixing this and although the drink is refreshing it has a very simple and basic flavour.
30ml Adler Berlin Gin (Dry Gin)
30ml Orange Juice
Add crushed ice and ingredients to an old-fashioned glass.
Finally here are some pictures of the bar itself.
The Hindenburg Smoking Room Bar (notice the Benedictine)
A picture of passenger enjoying drinks during the Hindenburgs’s first passenger flight to the USA.
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