Victorian London - Entertainment and Recreation - Drinking and Drugs - 'Cups, Cocktails and Grogs'

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Cups, Cocktails, and Grogs. - Water-parties and pic-nics at Nuneham, or under the shade of Cliveden or Quarry Woods, require at all times a good and sufficient lunch to make the day go off in a satisfactory manner, and the presence of somebody who knows how to combine ice, sugar, lemon, and "drinks" artistically, is an additional advantage. A judicious mixer is not at all out of place on board a yacht on a hot day in the lower reaches of the river, and the services of such a benefactor to his species have even been appreciated by stern and energetic members of rowing clubs during compulsory pauses from the day's work within the cool walls of a lock. Not much is wanted in the way of paraphernalia. A very big jug or half-gallon mug, a lump of ice, are, in fact, all the extras required. the sugar and lemon and the needful bottles take up very little room, and may even be classed as necessaries, and the skilful concoctor will want to but little space and time to produce any of the following "coolers," which have borne the test of time and experience with eminently satisfactory results. The basis of all wholesome cups is a brew of sugar and lemon-peel with a little water - hot if you are ashore and can get it conveniently, cold if you are in a boat or far from a fire and kettle. Only if the water by cold, the lemon-peel must soak a little longer than if hot water be used. The quantity of sugar must vary, of course, in proportion to the amount of sweetness in the wine or cider to be used, and will also depend to some extent on the taste and fancy of the mixer. Four lumps of sugar to a bottle of fair average claret will be about the mark, and for a cup on this scale the following should be the mode of procedure. Take four good-sized lumps of sugar and the peel of half a lemon cut very thin. Put these into your jug or mug, and add sufficient water (hot for choice) to cover the sugar. Let the sugar melt - if hot water be used, cover the top of the jug while the stewing is going on - and then add a glass of sherry and half a glass of brandy. Put in as large a lump of ice as circumstances will admit of, and immediately add a bottle of claret and a bottle and a half or two bottles of soda-water. Then take out the lemon-peel, insert a handful of borage, a sprig of fresh mint, and a couple of thin slices of lemon, stir and drink. Some artists have a weakness for adding a piece of cucumber rind, and the suggestion is not without merit. Other mixers add liqueur, but with a reservation in favour of orange brandy, this course is not to be recommended. Good orange brandy may be safely used instead of brandy pure and simple, but curacoa, maraschino, and above all chartreuse, give a certain sickliness and flavour of subsequent headache to the cup in which they find a place. A bottle of lemonade and one of soda instead of the two bottles of soda, have been occasionally used with success, and, especially if the party consist largely of ladies, is a pleasant change ; but the best variation in the original theme is to leave out the brandy, decrease the quantity of sugar, and add a bottle of champagne. There are very few better cups than this. Cider, Champagne, or Moselle cups are made on exactly the same principles as the original claret cup, but the first will generally require more sugar, while for the others a couple of lumps will, as a rule, be enough. Almost any wine may be made into a cup, as any vegetable can be converted to the purposes of the salad bowl, if the two cardinal principles of always stirring your lemon-peel and sugar first, and of always pouring your wine, &c., on to the ice, and of not adding your ice after the cup is mixed, be carefully kept in view. Drinks poured us to ice will keep their freshness for a much longer time than those to which ice is merely added.
    Cocktails are easy to concoct with the assistance of two metal caps with a bevelled edge, to enable them to fit closely together when required, and are, though simple in principle, a very agreeable form of refreshment at times. Put into one of your cups a piece of thin lemon-peel about two or three inches long, a little powdered white sugar, a dash of bitters (Boker's is to be recommended in this connection), and half a glass of gin, whisky, or brandy, or a glass of sherry or claret. Fill up with small pieces or shavings of ice. then fix on your other cup and shake the mixture vigorously. Remove the top cup, add a good squeeze of lemon-juice, and rub the edge of your cup with the same. If you prefer it you may turn the mixture into a wine-glass, but it is better served, as Mr. Bob Sawyer remarked, "in its native pewter." Champagne makes a capital cocktail, but will not stand the shaking up process, so it is better, in this case, to shake up the rest of the ingredients, and add the champagne last. Lemon, sugar, bitters, ice, as aforesaid, a glass of good sherry, a spoonful of brandy, and the yolk of an egg, all shaken well up together, make an excellent restorative after a hard day's work. The addition to the ordinary cocktail of a few sprigs of fresh mint, and the imbibition of the drink - which in this case may be advantageously made of rather more liberal proportions - through a straw, may not make a genuine American mint-julep, but the result is refreshing if not orthodox. Two or three strawberries or raspberries, a slice of orange, or, indeed, a dash of any fresh fruit, give additional charms to either cocktail or julep.
    Grogs are simple matters, and require no advice until they reach the higher branches, and become punches, at which point the judicious mixer again comes unto play, to be a welcome guest of the yachtsman in the chilly spring and summer weather often to be enjoyed off the marshes of Kent and Essex. The following will be found a very good punch for a cold night, and if taken in sufficient quantities, will excite no painful reminiscences in the morning. Assuming that the jug - it must be a jug, a bowl is an abomination - is to contain four good-sized tumblers, it will be well to proceed as follows. First ascertain that the jug is perfectly clean and dry: yacht stewards are not to be trusted in such matters anymore than parlour maids. Have the kettle on the fire before you - never to take boiling water on trust should be the first maxim of the careful punch-maker. Into your jug put five lumps of sugar and the peel of a lemon cut thin. Add a little boiling water, and cover your jug with a plate. While the stewing is going on strain the juice of a lemon through a piece of muslin, and in five minutes add to the original foundation. Then add of wine-glasses full of gin or whisky as many as you think discreet, and fill up with boiling water on the same principle. Take out the lemon-peel. Swaddle your jug up in a piece of thick flannel, carefully covering the top, and let it stand before the fire, or better still, in an oven, if possible, for half an hour. It is a pleasant nightcap. Some people add liqueur even here, but that is a mistake to be carefully avoided. The best jug for this punch is one of the old-fashioned brown Uncle Toby sort. If the drink be wanted cold, add a lump of ice after the stewing, and proceed afterwards as before, but with iced water, and omitting the baking. This recipe is occasionally used for mixed punch, but for that there is a much better plan. Take a common earthenware painter's pipkin, glazed inside, of about one large tumbler capacity. Put in three lumps of sugar, about a third of the peel of a lemon, a glass of old rum, and a glass of brandy. Set fire to the mixture, and let it burn well for about two minutes, carefully stirring the while. Then add the juice of half a lemon, strained through muslin, blow out the fire, and fill up with boiling water. Pour into a tumbler and drink as soon as you can. You will find it hot and eminently comforting. Prevention is better than cure, and this is said to be first rate companion for a cautios man in an aguish country such as is to be found among the marsh about the Lower Hope. The mixture is also agreeable as cold refresher, iced water being poured on the burnt mixture, and a lump of ice being put in the tumbler before the punch is poured in.
    It is, of course, impossible to give anything like an exhaustive list of the numberless recipes which exist for cup and punch making. Many books exist which afford information of more or less value on the subject, and to them the curious must be referred. But for ordinary purposes the above hints may not be without use. As has already been said, they have successfully passed the ordeal of practical experience.

Charles Dickens (Jr.), Dickens's Dictionary of the Thames, 1881