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Black Velvet

0.5 part Guinness Draught or Stout
0.5 part Champagne

Add Guinness to a chilled champagne flute
Slowly pour Champagne into the bowl of a bar spoon nestled against the inside edge of the glass; allow Champagne to run down the inside of the glass and layer atop the Guinness

* * *

The first question, I’m sure many of us have asked ourselves on various March 18ths throughout our lives.  The second question is a symptom of growing older and not being quite as invincible as we once were.  The questions are, respectively, of course:  “What did I do with all that Guinness?” and “What do I do with all this Guinness?”

The former, we ask ourselves as we stare across the littered remnants of the night before.  Did I really drink that much?  My body certainly seems to be telling me so.  The second instance – in which, I fortunately found myself this morning – is more of a problem of having a garage refrigerator full to the gills with bottles and draught cans of the Wine of Ireland. Whichever state you find yourself in today, the good news is that the solution to your problems may lie in the Black Velvet.

Reportedly created in 1861 to mark the untimely death of Prince Albert of England, Prince Consort to Queen Victoria, the appearance of the Black Velvet is meant to symbolize the black armbands worn by mourners.  At the young age of 42, Prince Albert had been diagnosed with typhoid fever.  He began to suffer congestion of the lungs and, at 10:50p.m. on December 14th, he passed away.  Queen Victoria took the loss incredibly hard.  Alcoholica Estorica tells us that, shortly following the death of the Prince, a steward at London’s Brooks’s Club decided that the morning Champagne enjoyed by the members was too frivolous a drink in the wake of the recent tragedy and added Guinness as a “mourning veil” to the bubbly.

In the years that followed, and perhaps because it was supposedly invented as a replacement for morning Champagne, the Black Velvet earned itself a reputation as something of a hangover cure.  In her biography Tallulah, Tallulah Bankhead wrote “Racked with a hangover I do my muttering over a Black Velvet, a union of champagne and stout.”  Similarly, the 1945 novel, The Great John L. notes “A hangover is, in short, a catastrophe and needs treatment… This, my boy, is the only cure.  Black velvet, or as some call it, Royal velvet.  They say Edward, the Prince of Wales, takes the same of a bad morning.”  And, there you have it – the hangover cure of movie stars and royalty.  If a Black Velvet can’t clear away the fog and the cobwebs, apparently nothing can.

On the other hand, should you find yourself with a small arsenal of Ireland’s best, as I currently do, the Black Velvet is an option to be considered if you wish to mix things up a bit.  Should the purists among you cry foul at the thought of sullying Guinness with something sparkling, I’ll offer that the Graham Beck Brut Non-Vintage from South Africa that we used won the Gold Medal at the Irish Wine Show in Dublin (where they make the Guinness).  So, at least we can assume that the Irish approve on some level.  And, of course, the half-and-half mix is just a guideline.  Feel free to divide yours up as you see fit.

We hope you came through St. Patrick’s Day in one piece, but should you find yourself a bit worse for the wear – or just in need of making room in the fridge – give the Black Velvet a try.  And yes, we are going to show the Alannah Myles video now.

    Comments ( 10 )

  • Wow, this is the first time I’ve actually seen anyone successful at layering this drink. Though, I guess I always thought, as in a Black and Tan, it would be more impressive with the Guinness on top. But then you’d have to use a heavier sparkling wine.

    Enjoyable post, in any case!

    • Completely agreed that the reverse layering would be more impressive but I took the easier route. I wasn’t sure I’d be successful the other way, with the Champagne being higher in ABV.

  • as a veteran double whammy victim (birthday is on March 18), i am very familiar with the questions “many of us have asked ourselves on various March 18ths throughout our lives”…but, i have never before attempted, or heard, of said libation. i will ask the bartender at the Clift, where I’m going for drinks in a couple of hours, if he would kindly make me one…

  • Jessie

    The Poor Man’s Black Velvet will also work in helping to clear out that fridge…. half Guinness and half cider. It may not have quite the same curative powers for a hangover but is delicious all the same.

  • I have a very distant memory of this drink… never knew the remarkable history. Now I am trying to wrap my head around the combination of Guinness and champagne. They did make remarkable mixes in the 19th century, didn’t they. I wondered if brut or semi-sec would be better with the brew??? ANother great post, David!

    • As always, thank you for the kind compliments. The type of sparkling really is up to personal tastes, I think. The South African stuff we used was very funky with lots of apple notes — certainly different but it worked lovely.

  • [...] my eye this past week; both from the site I run and from some pretty sweet-looking foodie blogs. Black Velvet (12 Bottle Bar) – Now this is what I would’ve been drinking had I celebrated St. Patty’s Day this [...]

  • I have ordered a black velvet many a time, and I have never seen a bartender even attempt to layer it. Good to know it can be done!

    • As Erik points out, the Guinness on top is the fancier way to go, but given the densities of the two liquor, much harder to achieve (if not impossible) with Champagne.

      Like a black-and-tan, much different drink layered than mixed.

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