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Winston

Grog

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I've received two lessons in this topic in the last month: Once from a historical re-enactor at Mount Vernon, then again last night at the Navy Ball.
It must mean that I was meant to share my new-found knowledge(?)

I'm sure most folks have heard of the word "grog", and know it has some nautical meaning. In fact, grog was a vital part of The Age of Sail and naval history. The water stowed aboard ship got slimy and foul tasting after a few months at sea. It was hardly drinkable. Sometime in the 17th Century, the British figured out that if alcohol was mixed with the water, sailors would more readily drink it (and not die of dehydration).

At first, beer and wine casks were carried on board. They were rationed to the sailors, who were supposed to mix it with their water. Well, young men being...idiots...saved their ration and instead used the alcohol to get drunk. The other problem was fermented spirits took up a lot of valuable cargo volume.

The solution was rum. The distilled liquor took up much less space, and was pre-mixed with the water prior to rationing to the crew. Grog is born.

Later, the fledgling US Navy substituted rye whiskey. The colonists had a bunch of grain crops, not so much sugar. The French, Spanish and Portuguese probably just docked somewhere and had heated arguments over proper grog etiquette.

At the Navy Ball, the cadets were forced to drink "grog" for violating the Mess Rules. We're pretty sure it was lemon juice, cinnamon and apple cider vinegar. No rum for the kiddies. Arrrrgg.

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  1. Kevin's Avatar
    I'll bet (like most everything)the reasons for the changes to grog had something to do with money. Somebody got cut out, and someone else got the money.

    I remember hearing that the reason for whiskey in Americas had to do with the perishable nature of grain crops, that the liquid version of starch (- to sugar-to alcohol) conversion not only had a longer shelf-life but was condensed, making it easier to transport and to store- great for the cask makers, maybe not so great for the silo builders(?) ( maybe, I mean they still had to store dry grain; the difficulty was getting product from the rural fields to the population centers). Anyway, the details don't matter; business always goes for the money.
  2. Winston's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Kevin
    I'll bet (like most everything)the reasons for the changes to grog had something to do with money. Somebody got cut out, and someone else got the money.

    I remember hearing that the reason for whiskey in Americas had to do with the perishable nature of grain crops, that the liquid version of starch (- to sugar-to alcohol) conversion not only had a longer shelf-life but was condensed, making it easier to transport and to store- great for the cask makers, maybe not so great for the silo builders(?) ( maybe, I mean they still had to store dry grain; the difficulty was getting product from the rural fields to the population centers). Anyway, the details don't matter; business always goes for the money.
    If you remember your history, Colonial finance was a mess. Each state had it's own currency, and the values fluctuated wildly.
    Something that had a stable value and could be readily traded was a good thing. Rye whiskey.
    Yep, grains go bad and take a lot of effort to get to market. Liquor? Much easier to store and sell / trade.
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