The Prince of Wales cocktail is a canvas for experimentation
As Britain’s Crown Prince for nearly six decades, Albert Edward, Queen Victoria’s eldest son, has spent much of his life traveling the world as an official representative of the Crown, the United States and the Canada to the Mediterranean and the Middle East. Less officially, Bertie, as he was known to most, also made his way across several continents, amassing dozens of mistresses and shaping culture and fashion for the leisure class in Europe. He is also the probable inventor of, and certainly the inspiration behind, the Prince of Wales cocktail.
Although somewhat obscure today, the drink, which first appears in a 1901 biography of Bertie after he was crowned King Edward VII, was a hit at the time of its inception. by David Wondrich To drink says the prince was “credited” with making the cocktail – a mix of rye, pineapple, cherry liqueur and champagne – and that it was very popular in the private clubs frequented by the fashionable elites of the time. Bertie himself belonged to at least five different London gentlemen’s clubs and was known to have a particular fondness for champagne. He regularly carried it with him in a jug to sip at leisure and apparently ordered a bath filled with the substance during visits to his private quarters at one of the most distinguished brothels in Paris. So it’s no surprise that sparkling wine makes an appearance in his eponymous cocktail.
Bertie’s sexual exploits were as legendary as his taste for champagne. Also nicknamed ‘Dirty Bertie’ and ‘Edward the Caresser’, his very first scandal came when the 19-year-old prince traveled to Ireland on a school trip and was caught smuggling the actress Nellie Clifden in her tent. His later mistresses included Jennie Churchill, Winston’s future mother; acclaimed actress Sarah Bernhardt; and a series of Parisian courtesans. His official mistress for the last 13 years of his life was Alice Keppel, great-grandmother of Camilla Parker Bowles, the current Queen Consort.
By the end of his life, Albert had become rather corpulent as a result of rich and frequent meals. It presented him with a bit of a challenge in some departments, but even the laws of physics couldn’t stop his insurmountable appetite. He commissioned a French cabinetmaker to create the “Seat of Love”, also known as the sex chairto accommodate its widened belt as well as two women.
His eponymous cocktail is a perfect amalgamation of his travels, his interests and the world he lived in. The drink itself originally included rye, pineapple, maraschino liqueur and bitterplus sugar and champagne, acting both as Improved Whiskey Cocktail and one royal. With the right combination of rye, bitters and bubbles, the drink can be a complex showcase of skill.
The Prince of Wales cocktail is also a great canvas for swapping ingredients. In fact, variations of the drink have appeared on cocktail compilations for decades since it was first recorded. How and whena 1937 Chicago guide to spirits and cocktail recipes, substitutes Gin for the rye and add an egg white. 1951 by Charles H. Baker The companion of the South American gentleman contains gin, brandy, lemon, egg white and pineapple juice. Madeira is another popular primary spirit; In fact, Mr.Bostonit is the version blends madeira, brandy, triple sec, bitters and champagne, omitting the pineapple entirely.
Bertie would probably be unfazed, even delighted, by the Prince of Wales’ long life and many variations. After 59 years as king-in-waiting, Albert Edward finally ascended the throne as King Edward VII and reigned for just over nine years, from 1901 to 1910. His lavish lifestyle resulted in his death: decades of rich food and drink wreaked havoc on his stomach and heart. His last words, when told that his favorite horse had just won a race, spoke of a life lived raucously and cheerfully: “Yes, I have heard of it. I am very happy.”