G IS FOR GROG
By Matthew Latkiewicz
G is for Grog. A drink many of us have heard of and maybe even said in piratey voice, but don’t really know what it is…. I don’t.
Here’s the history of Grog. This story is crazy. It all starts with colonialism. That period from the 15th to the 17th century when European ships traveled around the world in a flurry of capitalism and Christianity and kept the sailors on those boats out at sea for months or even years at a time. In order to make life bearable for these sailors, or actually probably just to keep them from mutiny, most of the European navies issued each sailor a daily ration of booze… but not just any booze.
These long sailing voyages took their toll not just on people but on beer, wine and water. Most of which turned into barrels of disease when out on the open ocean for years, but hard spirits could take it. So the British navy started giving sailors half a pint of rum a day. Not only that, but they gave them these eight ounces of rum (okay, and just for size comparison, that’s over five shots) all at once at 11:00 in the goddamn morning.
Obviously it didn’t go well. These sailors had to tie knots and operate cannons and shit. I can barely work my own pockets after five shots of rum. And so to reduce the drunken lunacy in 1740, an admiral by the name
of Sir Edward Vernon declared that the sailors were to get their daily ration or the daily tot as the British adoringly called it, into four 2-ounce portions. And that the rum was to be watered down, four parts water, one part rum. He also advised that the ship’s rum boatswain, which is a person in charge of measuring out the rum, put sugar and limes in it to make it more palatable.
Sir Edward Vernon’s nickname was Old Grogram. Not just because that’s an amazing nickname for a British guy, but because he was known for wearing lots of Grogram, a type of treated cloth that shed rain well. Nobody knows what Grogram is today, but we have all heard of Grog. The drink named after the nickname of the guy who watered down the British navy’s rum.
So weird how that works.
You’ll still find some version of Grog in your Tiki bars and divey Chinese restaurants/cocktail lounges nowadays, but if you want to make it at home, I’d follow David Wondrich’s recipe, which appropriately makes
a whole punch-bowls-worth. 16 ounces lime juice, one pound brown sugar, one pint dark rum, one half gallon water, and six sprigs of a mint. Mix in a large bowl and serve to your sailors.
G is for Grog.