It’s happy hour somewhere, but not yet at the GrogDog’s house, so I’m posting a bit of alcohol edification to go with your morning coffee: the roots of Grog.

Wikipedia has a very thorough history of the traditions and popularization of grog, so please click through for much more detail. The shot-sized version is that in many cultures and countries, grog is a mixed drink or punch made from local spirits, fruit juices, and spices.

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When most of us think of grog, however, we think of sailors and pirates. Why? After colonizing Jamaica in 1655, the British Royal Navy allotted a daily rum ration (vs. the traditional beer or brandy) to each sailor, but found that many were saving their portions to drink all at once. (There’s no word on whether this is the origin of the Friday office happy hour.) To avoid the resulting licentious drunkenness among its sailors, the Navy began cutting the rum with local unfiltered water, which tended to spoil (bacteria not being understood yet) and make sailors sick. But they found that when mixed with lime or lemon juice to cover the foul taste, the rum didn’t spoil as quickly and the sailors remained healthier overall – even resisting scurvy, a disease we now know is caused by a vitamin C deficiency. This is also why British sailors are known as limeys, for their consumption of lime juice.

British Admiral Vernon, who oversaw the West Indies fleet and the switch to the healthier rum ration, was known for wearing a cloak made of grogam fabric. His nickname, “old grog”, became the term for the drink he popularized, and was widely in use by the 1740s.

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Since many versions of Grog are served hot, it is a popular winter drink. With a major storm coming tomorrow, the GrogDog is laying in a supply of rum and some other ingredients to enjoy as the nor’easter pounds the coastline.

GrogDog’s Winter Grog

1 black chai teabag & boiling water

2 oz dark rum

1 lime, juiced

1 oz ginger syrup* (or honey) – more to taste

Make a cup of strong black chai in a mug, filling only 2/3 with boiling water. Squeeze and discard teabag. Stir in rum, lime juice, and syrup or honey. Adjust sweetness to taste. Stand at the window and sip while watching the gale blow.

*Ginger syrup is easy to make! Boil 1 cup water and 1 cup sugar, adding a handful of peeled, sliced fresh ginger. Stir until sugar is completely dissolved; take off heat and cover. Let steep until cool. Strain into a clean jar with a tight lid; refrigerate up to 2 weeks. (If mold forms, throw it out.)

Image: “The King God Bless Him”! British sailors taking their rum ration. Public domain.