Death of Louis Blériot
We’re marking the 80th anniversary of the death of Louis Blériot with his eponymous drink: the Blériot cocktail!
Who Was Louis Blériot?
Louis Blériot (1 July 1872 – 1 August 1936) was a French aviator, inventor, and engineer. Blériot made his forays into aviation using the money he made from creating the first practical version of a headlamp/headlight for use on trucks. His claims to fame include the first powered, operational, piloted, monoplane but he is most well known for his 1909 flight across the English Channel.
For that historic flight, he was awarded a prize of £1,000 by The Daily Mail Newspaper. Cocktail history lovers should find it especially significant that Blériot received the check at The Savoy Hotel the day after his successful flight.
Blériot remained a fixture in the aviation business until his death by heart attack on August 1, 1936. Blériot’s funeral was held with full military honors at Les Invalides and he was buried in the Cimetière des Gonards in Versailles.
Finding any information on Louis Blériot’s drinking habits proved a difficult task, but I was able to uncover an anecdote regarding his use of Vin Mariani during his channel flight:
I took the precaution of bringing a small flask of Mariani Wine with me, and it was a great help. It’s energetic action sustained me during the crossing.
All of this “energetic action” came in the form of cocaine as Vin Mariani, developed by Corsican/French chemist Angelo Mariani in the late 19th century, was made by steeping cacao leaves from the Truxillo region of Columbia, in Bordeaux wine. Blériot wasn’t alone in his fondness for this tipple, as Thomas Edison, Henrik Ibsen, Queen Victoria, Pope Pius X, and the Shah of Persia were known Vin Mariani devotees.
Vin Mariani contained somewhere between 150 and 300mg of cocaine per liter and was praised for it’s many “anaesthetic and mood-enhancing properties”. That amount was later increased to compete with similar cocaine-based drinks in the United States.
Cocktails inspired by Louis Blériot
The Blériot cocktail first appeared in later editions of Harry Craddock’s The Savoy Cocktail Book, which makes sense, given Blériot’s connection to the hotel.
Adapted from The Wordsworth Dictionary of Drink: An A-Z of Alcoholic Beverages By Ned Halley.
- 4 parts gin
- 2 parts dry vermouth
- 1 part cherry brandy
- 1 dash peach bitters
Stir over ice, add a cherry.
Rudgley, Richard. Encyclopedia of Psychoactive Substances. London: Abacus, 1999.
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