Grog – This most traditional of all rum drinks is a rich part of the early history of Naval Rum.
There was an Admiral by the name of Vernon who was the hero of the Battle of Porto Bello and the Commander-in-Chief, West Indies Station, the prime area for Spanish trade in the Caribbean. He had selected Porto Bello for attack because he learned that a large assignment of gold and silver had been sent there from Panama. The remarkable sequel, which followed the town’s capture, was Vernon’s decision that all public money found was to be divided fairly as prize money among those British crews which took part in the engagement. This was a brave step, in defiance of the regulations, but general delight at home in England over the victory caused it to be overlooked. No act could have done more to win the sailors’ hearts that on most occasions received nothing. The men had affectionately nicknamed Vernon Old Grog on account of the old grogram cloak (a rough-hewn fabric of mohair and silk) that he often wore when the weather was bad.
In Vernon’s time, the men received one-half pint of rum a day which they drank neat that is without water. Thus there was a lot of drunkenness and disobedience on board for which many of the men were brutally disciplined. He was much concerned with what he called, “the swinish vice of drunkenness”. He believed that if the rum was diluted with water that its effects on the senses would be reduced – even though the men were to receive the same amount of rum. Thus Admiral Vernon issued his infamous Order to Captains No. 349 on August 21, 1740.
His order refers to the “unanimous opinion of both Captains and Surgeons that the pernicious custom of the seaman drinking their allowance of rum in drams, and often at once, is attended with many fatal effects to their morals as well as their health … besides the ill consequences of stupefying their rational qualities … You are hereby required and directed … that the respective daily allowance … be every day mixed with the proportion of a quart of water to a half pint of rum, to be mixed in a scuttled butt kept for that purpose, and to be done upon the 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 let those that are good husbanders receive extra lime juice and sugar that it be made more palatable to them.”
The men were incensed that he should have ordered that their rum be diluted, and named it contemptuously Grogfrom the name they had given him. Thus real grog is Rum with water, lime-juice and brown cane sugar. Unwittingly, Vernon had created the world’s first cocktail – grog!