The British Navy is probably not a phrase that you would have expected to read about in a cocktail recipe post. But don’t be fooled…they are actually intimately connected. In a time when the scale of British imperial ambition meant that sailors spent months on end crossing the oceans in their ships, and with fresh water and beer being the only way of getting liquid into their body (sea water couldn’t, as yet, be distilled); ships were continually forced to seek fresh harbour, as the wooden casks would cause the water to become slimy and algae-filled and even beer would soon go off.
The sugar plantations of the West indies soon provided the tastiest possible solution. Jamaica, being “liberated” from the Spanish in 1655, the British Navy soon caught onto the many joys of rum: it keeps for a long time; it mixes beautifully with lime (preventing the seaman’s curse of scurvy) and was a great way of livening up a voyage – although it probably didn’t improve their sailing abilities.
‘Grog’ was created 85 years after the introduction of rum as an alternative to beer and water in the West Indies. It got its name from Admiral Vernon who was known as ‘Old Grogman’ or ‘Old Grog’ because of the grogram cloak – a combination of mohair and silk – that he wore in bad weather. He ordered that rum should be diluted 4:1 with water and each sailor should be limited to two rations a day (after an onset of drunkenness in the ranks). As lime and sugar was always available onboard, it was a common practice to mix it with their rum water (British sailors were known as “limeys” forever after).
Admiral Vernon had created the first military cocktail, along with the expression: “Too many and you’ll be Groggy in the morning”. These rations remained in force until 1970.
Punch is almost certainly the earliest form of cocktail and due to the similarity of the ingredients, Sours have been referred to as “The Children of Punch”. Punches and Grogs both are the direct forbears of the Sour and we can thank the British Navy and its heroic drinking culture for making them popular.
With a lockdown festive season in prospect, cocktails are probably a good way of injecting some happiness into the weekend; especially when consumed in front of a roaring fire.
This Vanilla Pear Sour uses a fragrant vanilla pear syrup that you can make in advance, so when it comes to the cocktail hour it just takes you a couple of minutes to create this beautifully moreish drink. Just make sure you have enough lemons!
makes 1 sour + 400ml of Vanilla Pear Syrup – adapted from Jamie Oliver
- 1 pear – cut in 1cm cubes
- 200g sugar
- 200ml water
- 1/2 vanilla pod – halved and seeds scraped out
- 30ml lemon juice
- 50ml vodka
- ice cubes
1 thin sliced pear
- Add the pear cubes, sugar, water and vanilla seeds (including the pod) to a saucepan. Simmer on low medium heat for 30min. Let it infuse and cool down for another 30min.
- Strain through a muslin cloth and squeeze all the goodness out. Keep in a jug in the fridge. Will keep for 5 days.
- Put the lemon juice, vodka and 30ml of the vanilla pear syrup into a cocktail shaker. Shake well and strain into a cocktail glass with ice.
- Garnish with a thin pear slice.
Tips / Variations
- Add a cinnamon stick to the syrup for a more festive treat.
- Use leftover syrup to drizzle over pancakes, yoghurt or vanilla ice cream.
- Mix with lemon juice and sparkling water for an exciting lemonade.
Print Recipe here: Vanilla Pear Sour – Recipe
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Sour Cocktails; History of Sour Cocktails; Rum – Navy Rum
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