Thursday, March 02, 2017

Rum - Grog!

Nowadays known as a general reference to any alcoholic drink the term Grog was actually the British naval slang for rum and water. In an attempt to stretch out the rum rations for his sailors Vice Admiral  Edward Vernon commenced the practice on August 21 1740 while commanding a squadron in the West Indies.

"Vernon's 1740 order that the daily rum issue of a half pint of rum be mixed with one quart of water and issued in two servings, before noon and after the end of the working day, became part of the official regulations of the Royal Navy in 1756 and lasted for more than two centuries."

Contrary to popular opinion the addition of citrus to Vernon`s grog was not done to prevent scurvy in his sailors. He did suggest to his officers that the men could trade some of their salt and bread rations for sugar or lemons to improve the taste of the rum/water ration if they chose to do so. That said it was later surgeons and officers of the Royal Navy who made the connection and knew that citrus could help keep the crews scurvy free despite the rebuttals of the medical establishment of the time. By 1795 the Admiralty was issuing lemon juice and sugar as part of the sailor`s rations. When the lemons became unavailable due to an alliance between Spain and France limes from colonial possessions in the West Indies were substituted and henceforward British sailors were referred to as "limeys".

The term grog can be traced to Vernon's nickname of "old Grog" that itself came from the material of his cloak.....

"Grosgrain....a type of fabric characterized by its ribbed appearance. In grosgrain, the weft is heavier than the warp, creating prominent transverse ribs. It is called a "corded" fabric since the weft resembles a fine cord...."

History lesson aside with the approaching Spring I`m already looking forward to a March cruise of the Eastern Caribbean and another summer on the deck. My previous visit to the Caribbean a couple years ago instilled in me a newfound appreciation for rums, a more complex and diverse spirit than I ever expected. Makes for some excellent sippers! In truth rum is now my preferred drink of choice (with all due respect to the Nobel Grape) but I am now at loggerheads as to how to best enjoy rum, especially deck side under the sun either here in Nova Scotia or in the tropics.

 I enjoy lesser quality rums, specifically young or spiced versions, mixed with coke, ginger ale and ginger beer. What I don`t like is the excess calories and the crappy nutritional values of sodas . Options?

Rum and Water

In search of the quaffable rum beverage less the excess sugar of sodas and cocktails I began to experiment with grog -  rum and water. The addition of citrus in the form of lemons and limes is easy and often compliments the palate of the rum. I prefer to use fresh citrus, a slice in the glass and a wedge squeezed over ice. I`ve tested a variety of spiced, ambers and dark rums using this simple recipe and each drink is somewhat unique based upon the inherent flavors of the rum. It was not a stretch for me as I already am a proponent of the benefits of citrus water.

Sidebar - I did pick up a bottle of Real Lime to substitute for fresh limes. It is an option especially if you are in a situation where fresh limes are scarce or unavailable. I do prefer the real fruit without the added preservatives found in the commercial product..

Other options exist including the use of coconut water which would definitely impart an appropriate  "island" feel to your beverage....."Coconut water stays true to rum’s roots without being too tropical and abrasive.  Lime brightens it up and holds it together". Note to self - testing required.

Another option is the use of club soda or tonic water. Toss out the gin and add rum.....
"Rum and tonic make fast friends when accompanied with ice and lime — and their harmony comes across with the first sip".

Tonic waters do have soda pop equivalent calories so, in essence, its no different than using coke or ginger ale. I`m thinking one could substitute seltzer or mineral water. In fact brands like Perrier often offer citrus flavored sparkling waters that may very well be suitable. Note to self - testing required.

Update-using Perrier's sparkling lime water mixed with a nondescript spiced rum resulted in an excellent beverage. Perrier also offers waters with lemon, orange and grapefruit which depending upon the nature of the rum would add some variety. Might just be my mixed rum drink of choice. Very nice.

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