A History Lesson With Booze ®

How ‘Nosferatu’ Was Almost Burned Out of Existence

Back in 1922, a classic movie monster was born and was almost immediately plunged into the scariest nightmare of all... a lawsuit. Learn the tale, then get the recipe for a custom twist on the Blood & Sand cocktail

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(Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

The History Lesson

One of the greatest horror movies ever almost had a stake put through its heart.

It was director F.W. Murnau’s “Nosferatu.” A silent, black-and-white chiller about an undead guy who lives in Transylvania and likes to suck blood from people’s necks. Sound an awful lot like Bram Stoker’s “Dracula?” That’s ’cause it was. With a few tweaks to avoid copyright infringement. Like for instance, “Count Dracula” became “Count Orlock.”

Alas, that wasn’t quite enough to satisfy Florence Stoker, Bram’s widow. She owned the copyright to “Dracula” and very little else. She and Bram had never received much cash from sales of the book. And she wasn’t about to let someone else earn cash from a movie version.

So Florence sued. And three years later, won a horrifying verdict: Not only did the film’s production company have to pay her reparation, they were ordered to destroy the negative and every single print in existence.

But vampires tend to rise from the dead, and so did “Nosferatu.” Miraculously, a few prints survived — screened for small audiences around the world, including the United States. Where it heavily influenced the atmosphere and even the script of Hollywood’s first vampire flick.

Universal Studios’ “Dracula,” starring Bela Lugosi, launched a golden age of monster movies. But it wasn’t ’til decades later, when “Nosferatu” showed up on late night TV, that most horror fans first saw the movie that inspired it all.

It’s since been remade by Werner Herzog, referenced on “Spongebob Squarepants,” and immortalized in a song by Blue Oyster Cult.

The Booze

The Hahnenschrei

cocktail

A riff on the Blood & Sand cocktail, mixed up by Max Haase. He’s the bartender at Redwood Bar Berlin, the city where “Nosferatu” came to life.

Ingredients:

  • 15ml (1/2 ounce) Bourbon
  • 15ml (1/2 ounce) Bowmore scotch
  • 30ml (1 ounce) Orange juice
  • 20ml (3/4 ounce*) Sweet Vermouth
  • 20ml (3/4 ounce*) Gilka Kaiser Kümmel
  • 3 Dashes coffee bitters

*We rounded this measurement up

Instructions:
Combine ingredients in a cocktail shaker and shake on ice. Strain and pour into a cocktail glass, then garnish with a grated coffee bean on top.