October 21: Trafalgar

TrafalgerThe Battle of Trafalgar (October 21, 1805) was one of the biggest naval conflicts of the Napoleonic Wars. 27 British ships, led by Admiral Lord Nelson, engaged in battle with 33 French and Spanish ships off of Spain’s Cape Trafalgar. Nelson used an unorthodox battle strategy and had his ships surround the larger Franco-Spanish fleet. This proved to be a successful strategy, and by the end of the battle Nelson had led the British to a commanding victory: The Franco-Spanish fleet lost twenty-two ships, while the British lost absolutely none.

Despite the victory, Nelson was shot by a sniper during the battle, and died from his wounds three hours later. As he lay dying, Nelson muttered “Thank God I have done my duty” and finally “God and my country” just before passing. Nelson’s body needed to be taken from the Spanish coast back to England, and it was decided that in order to keep the body preserved it would be placed in a cask of brandy. Now, according to maritime legend, when the cask was opened in England it was discovered that half of the brandy had vanished. Perhaps the crew had unwittingly sipped on the tainted liquor? Although this story is possibly apocryphal, there is an old sea chanty called “A Drop Of Nelson’s Blood,” which was covered a few years ago by Jarvis Cocker of Pulp.

Unsurprisingly there is a drink that’s also called Nelson’s Blood. It’s a dark mix of the potent liquors favored by the men of the Royal Navy and champagne. It can be a little harsh if not mixed well, so you might want to adjust the amount of blood orange juice to your taste.

Nelson’s Blood

  • 1 ounce Tawny Port
  • 1 ounce Dark Rum
  • 1 ounce Brandy
  • 1 ounce blood orange juice
  • 3 ounces Champagne

Shake all ingredients except the Champagne with ice in a cocktail shaker and strain into a cognac glass (brandy snifter). Add the Champagne and garnish with a blood orange slice.

Tomorrow: Opening night at the Met.

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