Odd History: The Hindenburg Cocktail

The hydrogen powered Hindenburg was a notable accomplishment even in an era when humanities’ technological advances were on overdrive. It’s also a history that can feel weird to research from a cocktail archaeology perspective – given that the giant blimp flew from Nazi-controlled Germany.

The Zeppelin Company Chairman Eckener didn’t want his flights politicized for Nazi propaganda. His stance got him very publicly chastised by the Nazi’s. Prior to the first Zeppelin transatlantic flight in 1936, the Associated Press discovered that Nazi Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels had decreed that Eckener’s name could not be mentioned in German media. He stated, “no pictures nor articles about him shall be printed.” Eckener was then demoted to the role of ‘supervisor’ of the first flight, to Rio.

Drinking on the Hindenburg
Drinking on the Hindenburg. Smithsonian Museum.

The Lounge of the LZ 129 Hindenburg

The lounge of the Hindenburg was 34 feet long, along the starboard side of the Zeppelin. Pictures show that the lounge wall bore a huge Mercator projection of the world. With the key voyages of explorers such as Columbus, de Gama, Magellan and Captain Cook.

The starboard side of the ship also contained a 12 ft by 15 ft hermetically sealed smoking room. One gained entrance through a double door air-lock. The room, kept at a higher air-pressure to prevent the flammable hydrogen from coming in. This sounds foolhardy, at best. 

The duty of the bartender to ensure that guests smokes were lit. ONLY with an electric lighter. They’d also inspect that no one left the smoking room to reënter the bar with a lit cigar or cigarette.

It was the job of the Elevator man to keep the ship inclined 5 degrees to ensure wine bottles didn’t tumble off tables.

The lounge had a custom-made Blüthner piano. The first piano used in flight. Built with aluminum to restrict its weight to 397 pounds, a 220 pound savings from a similar sized piano with cast iron parts. The Hindenburg removed the piano in 1937 to save more weight, surviving the crash. It was later destroyed in the bombing of Germany.

Front Cover Hindenburg Wine Menu
Front Cover Hindenburg Wine Menu. Image credit: The Smithsonian Museum.

Bar Menu of the Hindenburg

The menu for the Hindenburg bar ran deep. Fifteen wines by glass, spirits, classic cocktails and house specialties. Some house drinks were the Maybach 12 – 2 parts Gin, 2 parts Kirsch & 1 part Benedictine. LZ-129 Frosted Cocktail – Equal parts Adler Berlin Dry Gin & Orange juice, over crushed ice. The name is a reference to the flight code of the Hindenburg.

On a trip once, the guests consumed all the available whiskey on board, and so the Hindenburg’s signature Kirsch Martini (3 parts Kirsch, 1 part Dry Vermouth, Dash Grenadine) was hatched by Pauline Charteris.  Who is the wife of Simon Templar the author.

Here’s my take on the most noted of Hindenburg cocktails:

Hindenburg Cocktail
The Hindenburg

The Hindenburg

45 ml Yukon Barrel Aged Beer Schnapps (Substitute: high-proof Kirsch)

15 ml Belsazar Dry Vermouth

2 barspoons quality Grenadine

1 dash Aromatic bitters

Stirred and strained. Served with a lemon twist.

Hindenburg Cocktail Shaker
Hindenburg Cocktail Shaker recovered from the wreckage of its botched final landing in New Jersey.Image credit John Connor. Worth $13.000 in auction.
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