Burnt Fuselage

October 13th, 2008  |  Published in brandy, cognac, liqueur, MxMo, recipes  |  9 Comments

October is upon us again in all its blustery, cold and windy glory. In southern California we don’t get “autumn” in the way other locales do but it is misleading to say that we don’t experience any change in the weather during the coldest months. Here at the southern edge of the Mojave Desert we get to enjoy the bracing gusts of the Santa Ana winds, which are currently aiding and abetting a huge fire just on the other side of the Angeles National Forest from where I sit, typing. Ah, fall.

We do actually have some turned leaves falling on the lawn (more like crashing into the side of the house today) and I am off in a few hours to my new job, participating in another of those autumn rituals—going back to school. I realized with some alarm this morning that today is also Mixology Monday; some teacher I am, wandering in with my hastily scribbled homework just before the bell rings.

This month’s topic is “Guilty Pleasures,” hosted by Stevi of Two at the Most, but I’m afraid the ones I have really aren’t very interesting. I enjoy a good Cuba Libre from time to time or will make a Gimlet with Rose’s Lime Cordial when pressed, but otherwise I have weaned my drinking habits away from the Long Island Iced Teas of the world. Since neither of those seemed to be particularly guilty to me, I am instead going to run with another of my guilty pleasures. My friends will tell you that I have a finely tuned eye when it comes to things that are so tacky no one else would like them. I own obnoxious ’70s floral-printed dresses. In thrift shops, I am inexorably drawn to anything avocado green or covered in glitter. I un-ironically know the words to every Air Supply song. If most other people think it is terrible, I probably love it. What can I say? I have a soft spot for strays of all kinds.

My morbid fascination with the terrible doesn’t stop at hideous china or macrame; oh no, I will also make a drink just because it sounds so incredibly, improbably awful that I absolutely must know if it is as terrible as it seems. As you might imagine, there is no shortage of inspiration as such things go. Old cocktail books are teeming with drinks that can make your eyes water and your throat dry, and I’m just the sort of patsy who will make them. Enter Mud Puddle Books and my copy of Barflies and Cocktails by Harry and Wynn.

Toward the end of the book there is an essay entitled “Cocktails Round Town” by one Arthur Moss. In it, he details some cocktail recipes by various bartenders around New York, most of which sound absolutely dreadful! Such things are second drink heaven around here, so we selected the amazingly named Burnt Fuselage cocktail, which entry goes like this:

Chuck Kerwood takes to the air so frequently that he likes a stiff steadier when he comes down to earth. The famous flying man calls his concoction the ‘Burnt Fuselage.’ And believe me, 1/3 Grand Marnier, 1/3 Cognac, and 1/3 French vermouth, and your own fuselage will be warm, to say the least.

Roughly translated, our recipe came out like this:

¾ oz cognac
¾ oz Rhum Clément Creole Shrubb
¾ oz dry vermouth

Shake over ice and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

So how was it? Surprisingly, not that awful. The vermouth was entirely too overpowering, but it did add an appealing dryness to the overall character of the drink. I think I might prefer to use lemon juice instead, but another go with half the amount of vermouth probably wouldn’t be a bad idea either. Not that I would be serving this to guests any time soon—besides, with a name like that, who would want one?

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  1. Paul says:

    October 13th, 2008at 3:16 pm(#)

    I should interject that I actually quite like the Burnt Fuselage (and from the comments I’ve hooked Rick and Seamus on it, too), though I think it’s one of those cases where you need the extra sweetness from the Grand Marnier to pull it over the line; I love the Creole Shrubb, but I’m not sure it has the lushness to roll over the vermouth.

    Sub Cherry Heering for the Grand Marnier and you’ll have a Ulysses, a drink I just came across last week and that I think is worth pulling out some time.

  2. Marleigh says:

    October 14th, 2008at 10:18 am(#)


    I had a feeling that the Grand Marnier would work better in this but we’re out at the moment so I had to sub the Shrubb. The Ulysses sounds really interesting; I’ll have to give it a try. Thanks!

  3. Mixology Monday XXXII Guilty Pleasures — The Recap | Two At The Most says:

    October 14th, 2008at 3:12 pm(#)

    [...] cocktail recipes that just look so bad on the page they must be tried. Today she brings us the Burnt Fuselage, equal parts cognac, Grand Marnier, and dry vermouth. She tries it with Rhum Clément Creole Shrubb [...]

  4. Dr. Bamboo says:

    October 15th, 2008at 7:56 am(#)

    You’re right- that is a terrible, terrible name that conjures up only suffering and destruction. But I’ll still try this at some point.

    Besides, I’m never going to acquire a taste for brandy unless I actually start drinking the stuff.

  5. Seamus says:

    October 15th, 2008at 9:55 am(#)

    Yeah, I like the Burnt Fuselage and it became very popular among my friends. I even had drunk strangers were ringing me at 1 am for the recipe. Not sure how that happened.

    I think it’s a natural winner with people wanting a rich and complex drink.

    It is also one of those drinks that most bars can put together. Cognac and Grand Marnier are usually in the inventory. The only place you are likely to come unstuck is if the vermouth has been lying around unused for years.

  6. Marleigh says:

    October 15th, 2008at 3:06 pm(#)


    To paraphrase Doc, when it says brandy just assume it means cognac. It makes life much, much better.


    Thank God I don’t have drunk strangers calling me at 1 am. They’d find themselves making something composed entirely of Galliano and sweet vermouth for their trouble.

    I had no idea the Burnt Fuselage had such a rabid following, but I’m glad to hear it. Now I just need to pick up a bottle of Grand Marnier for next time…

  7. Jason says:

    January 11th, 2009at 5:46 pm(#)

    I quite agree with Paul, in addition to the great compliment of flavours in VSOP, Grand Marnier and Noilly Prat white vermouth in equal parts, such a concoction is true to the roots of the drink…it is a French drink which came about in the 1940′s therefore one should try and use French ingredients. twisting the oil from the lemon skin over the drink after shaking and pouring into the glass adds a nice touch in addition. The picture above shows the drink as a yellow type concoction but it should be of a burnt orange colour.

  8. Judy Stiles says:

    December 17th, 2009at 10:57 am(#)

    Chuck Kerwood returned to fly again. He was a friend of my parents and a guest at our house in Coral Gables when I was a child. Quite the raconteur. I’m sure he needed a stiff drink when he landed in those days.

  9. Marleigh says:

    December 18th, 2009at 11:30 am(#)

    Judy—That’s so cool. Good to know that he kept flying and (likely) enjoying good cocktails!

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