The Black Velvet cocktail is a beer cocktail, meaning its primary alcohol is beer; it is one of the oldest mixed drinks we know of, yet we certainly know what and whom it was invented for. It is a surprising event when we know the exact origins and history of a cocktail, because these things were not generally written down like historical events. A natural omission of course, because most of them only became historically important later, decades later perhaps.
Our Black Velvet cocktail however was invented in 1861, by a bartender working at the Brook’s Club in London;; the drink was prepared to commemorate and mourn the death of Prince Albert, who was the Prince Consort of Queen Victoria. Its faded and layered color was meant to symbolize the black and purple worn by those who mourned His Highness.
Preparing the Black Velvet cocktail is not very difficult and it doesn’t contain many ingredients either; usually, it is prepared pouring chilled stout beer into a champagne flute, filling about half of it. After that, sparkling wine is added over the beer in about similar quantities and served like this. The cocktail is very interesting visually as well, because the two drinks have different volumes, so for a while they remain in a layered position, usually with the champagne at the bottom, getting darker towards the edge of the flute. Bartenders usually achieve this effect easier by using a technique generally employed when creating layered cocktails and drinks; the secret is pouring the second – and in some cases the third, fourth and so on – ingredient over the back of a spoon, so the liquid pours gently instead of splashing over he first liquid.
Knowing a bit about the volume of the drinks involved is also necessary, otherwise you risk pouring a heavier liquid on top of a lighter one and ruining the whole layered aspect. There are several variations of the Black Velvet cocktail, or rather similar drinks. One of them is the Poor Man’s Black Velvet, where the sparkling wine is replaced by cider or perry; here the stout is poured first, so it blends with the cider when it is poured. If, however, one adds the cider first and stout after, achieving the layered effect, then the mixed drink is called a “Black Adder”.
Germans also have a variation of the Black Velvet cocktail, but they prepare it using their “schwartzbier”, which is a dark lager; they serve it in a large beer mug which is named “Bismarck” because the Chancellor reportedly drank this beverage by the gallon.