The Burnt Fuselage

Colonel C.W. Kerwood's birthday

Your cocktail calendar entry for: August
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Today we’re mixing the Burnt Fuselage as Drink of the Day for August 10.  You see, on that day in 1897 Charles Wayne Kerwood was born in Chicago.  You may not know who he is offhand, but his earned reputation as the “wild man of aviation” resulted in a classic cocktail you can enjoy today, so we’ll explain the history and the Burnt Fuselage recipe.

Charles Kerwood

Kerwood certainly isn’t a well-known character these days, but he was a notable early 20th century aviator.  In World War I he flew Spad and Nieuport aircraft with the Lafayette Flying Corps, a name given to American volunteer pilots that flew with the French Air Force.  He was wounded in combat twice before being shot down.  That gave him personal experience with burnt fuselages, and he was subsequently captured by the Germans.  He attempted to escape and was wounded, finishing the war in a German prison camp.

Not one to stay on the ground and pass up a good time, after World War I the then Colonel Kerwood commanded the Greek Royal Air Force in the Greek-Turkish War and in the mid-1920’s he organized the Volunteer American Squadron during the French-Spanish expedition against Berber tribes in Northern Morocco.  In 1925 he crashed there while flying a load of machine guns up to the front line, resulting in a long hospital stay.  He then flew with the Greek Royal Flying Corps and was afterwards their Air Ataché in Paris.

Col. Kerwood was also described as “pugilistic” in Training to Fly, a history of training from 1907-1945 created by the U.S. Army Air Corps, and we also know he liked a drink or two.  Fun guy, and for his birthday we can recognize him for inventing our Drink of the Day, the Burnt Fuselage.

The Burnt Fuselage Cocktail

The Burnt Fuselage was first published in Harry MacElhone’s 1927 Barflies and Cocktails.  You know Harry as the owner at that time of Harry’s New York Bar in Paris, as part of our earlier discussion of two great cocktails, the Boulevardier and the Old Pal.  The book also contains a “Cocktails Round Town” section written by the Paris correspondent of the New York Herald, Arthur Moss.  The Burnt Fuselage was the drink of choice for Col. Kerwood, at least at Harry’s New York Bar.  Moss wrote that:

“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.”

So there’s our basic recipe.  Simple as pie and using only ordinary household supplies, we might as well get to mixing.

Burnt Fuselage cocktail

Burnt Fuselage

An equal parts cocktail like the classic Negroni, the Burnt Fuselage was a “stiff steadier” for the early 20th century daredevil aviator Col. C.W. Kerwood.  Cognac and Grand Marnier play well together, and with dry vermouth moderating the resulting sweetness the cocktail is rich but not cloying.
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  • 1 oz Cognac
  • 1 oz Grand Marnier
  • 1 oz Dry vermouth
  • Garnish: lemon twist (optional)


  • Add all ingredients to your trusty mixing glass
  • Add ice and stir
  • Strain into pre-chilled cocktail glass
  • Garnish with lemon twist
  • Drink
  • Rinse and repeat. Try not to crash and burn your fuselage.
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