Trafalgar Cocktail

On October 21st of 1805 Admiral Lord Nelson was outnumbered by the combined fleets of the French and Spanish navies off of the southwest coast of Spain near Cape Trafalgar. Under his brilliant leadership 27 British ships defeated a combined armada of 33 ships in one of the greatest naval battles ever. During the battle, a French sniper mortally wounded Admiral Nelson who died that day.  To honor him the crew returned his body to England by submerging the corpse in a barrel of spirits. British naval lore claims the spirit to be rum while other historical documents use the term “grape spirits” which would lead us to believe it was brandy. In any instance, the lore that accompanies the story is that some of the sailors got thirsty on the voyage home and drilled a small hole in the barrel and drank a bit of what was to be dubbed “Nelson’s Blood”. Over the years this has adopted the meaning of having a tot of rum.

Today as an homage to Admiral Nelson we share with you the Trafalgar Cocktail. Now in researching this drink we came across numerous renditions online ranging from cocktails that were gin and vodka based to more historically correct versions that drew on rum and brandy as inspiration. The recipe we share with you is from the bartending book, The 12 Bottle Bar and draws on both rum and brandy as a base to embellish. The drink is both strong and sweet with an appealing variety of layered flavors. The red wine float is to symbolize the blood spilled by Admiral Nelson. The rendition is simply named Trafalgar and is as follows:


  • 1 ½ ounces amber rum
  • 1 ½ ounces Cognac-style brandy
  • ½ ounce orange liqueur
  • ½ ounce Simple Syrup
  • ½ ounce strained freshly squeezed lime juice
  • ½ ounce red wine (we like Shiraz)


  1. Combine the rum, brandy, liqueur, simple syrup, and lime juice in a mixing glass, fill the glass three-quarters full with ice cubes, cover with a Boston shaker tin and shake vigorously until thoroughly chilled, 15 seconds.
  2. Strain into a martini glass.
  3. Hold a bar spoon against the side of the inside wall of the glass, just below the rim and not touching the surface liquid. Slowly pour the red wine into the bowl of the spoon and down the inside of the glass so that it floats on the surface.