Grog: The World's First Cocktail

Dating back to 1740, Grog is one of the world’s oldest cocktails. Back in its conception it was not designed as a cocktail but has since become a simple classic. Although it was originally made with rum, a grog is defined as liquor mixed with water, lime juice and sugar. You can find different versions these days, but there is only one original recipe.

The origin of the Grog starts aboard the British Royal Navy ships in 1740. During this time, it was not yet feasible for ships to carry desalinization equipment and all water was stored in casks or barrels aboard the ship. As you can imagine, the casks quickly filled with algae and the water became pungent. To combat this complication, the crew would add beer or wine to their water to make it safe to drink and to make it more palatable. The need for ships to carry such large quantities of water, beer and wine made storage an increasingly large problem and ultimately did not solve the spoiling issue as the beer and wine eventually spoiled as well.

After England's conquest of Jamaica in 1655, they gradually began replacing beer and wine with rum aboard the ships. Each day, the sailors would receive their tot of rum from the purser (The name "purser" was corrupted by the sailors and often referred to as the "pusser" hence the name Pusser's Rum). Their daily tot consisted of a half pint of rum which the men would drink neat - that is without water. Some of the men would save their daily rations and drink several at once. This often caused intoxication among the ratings and ranks and led to a perpetual state of drunkenness and severe punishment followed for those who became unruly. This went on until an Admiral Edward Vernon, Commander-in-Chief of the West Indies Station became concerned with the drunken state of the crew. Admiral Vernon was well liked by the crew and given the nickname of "Old Grog" due to the old grogram cloak he would wear while sailing cooler climates. Seeing the disturbances and issues arising from the daily rum ration, Vernon decided to cut the ration with water, reducing the strength of the rum and its effects. This also shortened spoilage time, which would keep the men from saving their tots for days at a time.

This new rule was not favored by the sailors as it made it more difficult for them to over indulge on their daily ration. However, the watered rum did help to reduce drunkenness and sickness aboard the ships although it did not disappear entirely. The men decided to name this mixture "Grog" after the nickname they had given Vernon. Unbeknown to Vernon, he had created the worlds first cocktail. To this day, the recipe remains unchanged, only refined. 

On August 21, 1740 a General Order was issued;

Whereas it manifestly appears by the returns made to my general order of the 4th of August, to be the unanimous opinion of both Captains and Surgeons, that the pernicious custom of the seamen drinking their allowance of rum in drams, and often all at once, is attended with many fatal effects to their morals as well as their health, which are visibly impaired thereby, and many of their lives shortened by it, besides the ill consequences arising from stupefying their rational qualities, which makes them heedlessly slaves to every passion; and which have their unanimous opinion cannot be better remedied then by ordering their half pint of rum to be daily mixed with a quart of water, which they that are good husbandmen, may, from the saving of their salt provisions and bread, purchase sugar and limes to make more palatable to them.

'You are therefore hereby required and directed, as you tender both the spiritual and temporal welfare of his Majesty's subjects, and preserving sobriety and good discipline in his Majesty's service, to take particular care that rum be no more served in specie to any of the ships company under your command, but that the respective daily allowance of half a pint a man for all your officers and ship's company, be every day mixed with the proportion of a quart of water to every half pint of rum, to be mixed in a scuttled butt kept for that purpose, and to be done upon deck, and in the presence of the Lieutenant of the Watch, who is to take particular care to see that the men are not defrauded in having their full allowance of rum, and when so mixed it is to be served to them in two servings in the day, the one between the hours of 10 and 12 in the morning, and the other between 4 and 6 in the afternoon.

'And you are to take care to have other scuttled butts to air and sweeten their water for their drinking at other times, and to give strict charge to your Lieutenants in their respective Watches to be very careful to prevent any rum and all spiritous liquors being privately conveyed on board the ship by your own boats or any others, and both you and they must expect to answer for the ill-consequences that may result from any negligence in the due execution of these orders. Given etc.