Black Velvet

September 8, 2008


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…is more than a passionate love song from 1989. It is also a drink. I didn' t know this until a recent visit to some elders in Hanover, New Hampshire. My friend Chip Demming introduced me to this rich and smooth beverage, which is as aptly named as it could possibly be, though it hasn' t really been enjoyed since the 1940s. I think I know why. Guinness, whether alone or mixed, tends to be a pretty masculine choice. In fact, the only people indulging in these drinks were men—my female counterpart and I opted for straight bubbly—and I can foresee someone with an especially proud masculine side having difficulty asking for “black velvet”in a public place. The combination itself is a one-to-one ratio of champagne to Guinness and is served in a big beer glass. The two are poured simultaneously and the end result is something akin to a spiked seltzer-beer since the taste of Guinness disguises any grape flavor. The dark color also takes over, though effervescence remains. The drink was served with a pairing of strong cheeses—a Vermont cheddar, stinky blue and a pungent Swiss. As I took a sip of black velvet, I was reminded of the first ever taste I had of a root beer float. It was a terrible experience. I hated the way the ice cream melted into the soda foam like brownish residue washed up along the beach. Fortunately, my first taste of black velvet was nothing like that. Since the two liquids were of comparable viscosity and neither melted into the other, the drink achieved, I think, what root beer floats hope to accomplish: a blending of two wonderful, potable things.

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