Pauline Charteris Hindenburg Cocktail

I love cocktails as well as airships, so here is a drink in honor of the elegant Pauline Charteris and the Hindenburg in happier days.


The Story of this Cocktail

As the Hindenburg approached New York on its maiden voyage to America, on the first of its many successful transatlantic flights of the 1936 season, the passengers learned that the Hindenburg’s bar had run out of gin.

The staff of Hindenburg was well equipped to cater to German tastes — a typical dinner was pork and anchovy meatballs in caper sauce — but less equipped to satisfy Anglo-American desires.

Cocktails aboard the Hindenburg

Cocktails aboard the Hindenburg

In the absence of gin, but with an abundant supply of kirschwasser, passenger Pauline Charteris reacted to the emergency with panache and improvised a Kirschwasser Martini to the delight of her thirsty companions.

The dapper Leslie Charteris and the elegant Pauline

The dapper Leslie Charteris and the elegant Pauline

Pauline then led her fellow passengers in singing a new song she had just learned in Nassau: “œMama don’t want no gin because it would make her sin.” [video of song by Count Basie].

saint-logoPauline was the 24 year old wife of Leslie Charteris, the author who created Simon Templar — better known as The Saint — and in honor of Pauline I have created the Pauline Charteris Kirschwasser Cocktail.

There is no reliable documentation of the ingredients or proportions of Pauline’s actual Kirschwasser cocktail aboard the Hindenburg, so I have created what is more of a tribute than a recreation.

The Pauline Charteris Hindenburg Cocktail

  • 3 oz kirschwasser
  • A tad less than 1/2 oz dry vermouth
  • A splash of Grenadine
  • Lemon peel*

(*A peel… just the oily skin… not a “twist” with the bitter white pith.)

Shake with ice, enough to make cold, but not enough to dilute too badly.


And remember, if things get too hot, JUMP!

(What?  Too soon?)


Update: A Finnish band has published a variation of this recipe which I have tried and describe on the blog.

5 Comments on "Pauline Charteris Hindenburg Cocktail"

  1. I tried, It’s so delicious. I learnt the history of this cocktail here too.

  2. This was a lip-smacking, delicious cocktail.

  3. The von Meister report (or at least, the portions of it included in Duggan’s book) was a big surprise to me too, particularly the bit about Schulze not ever having heard of a Manhattan. This was a guy who had worked the steamship lines for years, and who specifically asked for a bartender gig with the Zeppelin company for several years until the Hindenburg was finally ready to go. He wasn’t just hired as a steward and arbitrarily assigned to the bar.

    It’s not like the Manhattan was some faddish new American drink as of 1936, either. I have to assume it was something that one could get on the steamships.

    But, who knows?

    The “frosted cocktail” sounds like something that would have been tasty during tropical flights, but yeah, it’s not like there’s anything particularly inventive about a gin-and-orange.

    Then again, Cheryl Ganz once told me that she had the pleasure of sitting down with the Hindenburg’s head chef and she asked him about some of the more obscure dishes that she’d seen on various Hindenburg menus, and (as I recall, anyway – Cheryl, if you’re reading this and I’m totally blowing the story, by all means please correct me!) Maier apparently chuckled and said something to the effect that a lot of times they’d just throw together whatever they had onhand (potatoes mixed with this, that, and/or the other, for example) and then come up with a fancy name for it for the menu.

    I imagine the bar recipes might have often been a similar sort of thing. Though I do kind of tend to figure that whatever the Maybach 12 was, it was probably a good bit more of an ass-kicker than the Frosted Cocktail was. I always have an image of something the color of motor oil, with a helluva backfire to it.

  4. Nicely done!

    Now if we could just dig up some idea of what was in the long-lost “Maybach 12”.

    (Why, oh why, of all people, did the Hindenburg’s BARTENDER have to die at Lakehurst?!)

    • Yes, I did wonder what Max Schulze would have thought of my creation.

      Although with all respect to the departed, his “LZ-129 Frosted Cocktail” didn’t sound terribly exciting (equal parts gin and orange juice — why?).

      And as you know, the January, 1937 memo written by the Deutsche Zeppelin-Reederei’s American representative Willi von Meister expressed surprise that on a ship so heavily traveled by Americans, the bartender had never even heard of a Manhattan.

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