THE OXFORD GRACE CUP.
The grace cup serv’d, the cloth away,
Jove thought it time to shew his play.
Prior. The ancient Grace Cup was a vessel proportioned to the number of the company assembled, which went round the table, the guests drinking out of the same cup one after another. Virgil describes something like it, when, speaking of the entertainment Queen Dido gave to Aneas, he says,
Postquam prima quies epulis, menssque remotes;
Crateras magnos statuunt, et vina coronant,
Hie regina gravcm gemmis auroque poposcit
Implevitque mero pateram:
Primaque libatu summo tenus attigit ore.
Turn Bitis dedit increpitans: ille impiger hausit
Spumantem pater am, et pleno se proluit auro.
Post alii proceres.
It has been the custom from time immemorial, at the civic feasts in Oxford, for the Grace Cup to be introduced before the removal of the cloth, when the Mayor receives the Cup standing; his right and left hand guests also rise from their seats while he gives the toast, which, since the Reformation, has been, “Church and King.” The Cup is then handed round the table, no one presuming to apply his lips to it until two persons have risen from their seats. The origin of this custom is ascribed by our antiquaries to the practice of the Danes heretofore in England, who frequently used to stab or cut the throats of the natives while they were drinking, the persons standing being sureties that the one holding the cup should come to no harm while partaking of it.
THE OXFORD GRACE CUP RECIPE.
Extract the juice from the peeling of a lemon, and cut the remainder into thin slices; put it into a jug or bowl, and pour on it three half pints of strong home-brewed beer and a bottle of mountain wine; grate a nutmeg into it; sweeten it to your taste; stir it till the sugar is dissolved, and then add three or four slices of bread toasted brown. Let it stand two hours, and then strain it off into the Grace Cup.
* Home-brewed beer is here recommended, as the common brewers too frequently mix with their beer sulphuric acid, copperas, tobacco, capsicum, cocculus Indicus, coriander seeds, allum, and burnt sugar.
CIDER CUP (OR COLD TANKARD).
Extract the juice from the peeling of one lemon by rubbing loaf sugar on it; cut two lemons into thin slices; the rind of one lemon cut thin, a quarter of a pound of loaf sugar, and half a pint of brandy. Put the whole into a large jug, mix it well together, and pour one quart of cold spring water upon it. Grate a nutmeg into it, add one pint of white wine and a bottle of cider, sweeten it to your taste with capillaire or sugar, put a handful of balm and the same quantity of borage* in flower (borago officinalis) into it, stalk downwards. Then put the jug containing this liquor into a tub of ice, and when it has remained there one hour it is fit for use. The balm and borage should be fresh gathered.
* “The sprigs of borage in wine are of known virtue, to revive the hypochondriac, and cheer the hard student.” Evelyn’s Acetaria, p. 13. “Borage is one of the four cordial flowers; it comforts the heart, cheers melancholy, and revives the fainting spirits.” Salmon’s Household Companion, London, 1710.
* “Borage has the credit of being a great cordial; throwing it into cold wine is better than all the medicinal preparations.” Sir John Hill, M.D.
* “The leaves, flowers, and seed of borage, all or any of them, are good to expel pensiveness and melancholy”. The English Physician.
* “Balm is very good to help digestion and open obstructions of the brain, and hath so much purging quality in it, as to expel those melancholy vapours from the spirits and blood which are in the heart and arteries, although it cannot do so in other parts of the body.” Ibid.
Merely substitute perry (pear cider) for (apple) cider.
One quart of strong beer instead of cider or perry. The other ingredients the same as in cider cup.
Use one pint of port wine instead of white; sometimes two glasses of red currant jelly are added. In other respects the same as cider cup, excepting that warm water is used to dissolve the jelly.
THE WASSAIL BOWL (OR SWIG).
Sir, quod he, Watsayll, for never days of your lyf ne dronk ye of such a cuppe. Ancient MS.
The Wassail Bowl, or Swig, as it is termed at Jesus College in this University, is of considerable antiquity, and up to this time is a great favourite with the sons of Cambria; so much so, indeed, that a party seldom dines or sups in that College without its forming a part of their entertainment on the festival of St. David, Cambria’s tutelary Saint, an immense silver gilt bowl, containing ten gallons, and which was presented to Jesus College by Sir Watkin W. Wynne in 1732, is filled with *Swig, and handed round to those who are invited on that occasion to sit at their festive and hospitable board.
* Swig was formerly almost exclusively confined to Jesus College; it is now, however, a great favourite throughout the University.
* The following is the method of manufacturing it at that College.
Put into a bowl half a pound of Lisbon sugar; pour on it one pint of warm beer; grate a nutmeg and some ginger into it: add four glasses of sherry and five additional pints of beer; stir it well; sweeten it to your taste: let it stand covered up two or three hours, then put three or four slices of bread cut thin and toasted brown into it, and it is fit for use. Sometimes a couple or three slices of lemon, and a few lumps of loaf sugar rubbed on the peeling of a lemon, are introduced. Bottle this mixture, and in a few days it may be drank in a state of effervescence.
The Wassail Bowl, or Wassail Cup, was formerly prepared in nearly the same way as at present, excepting that roasted apples, or crab apples, were introduced instead of toasted bread. And up to the present period, in some parts of the kingdom, there are persons who keep up the ancient custom of regaling their friends and neighbours on Christmas-eve and Twelfth-eve with a Wassail Bowl, with roasted apples floating in it, and which is generally ushered in with great ceremony. Shakspeare alludes to the Wassail Bowl when he says, in his Midsummer Night’s Dream,
Sometimes lurk I in a gossip’s bowl,
In very likeness of a roasted crab,
And when she drinks, against her lips I bob.
And on her wither’d dewlap pour the ale.
Brown Betty does not differ materially from the preceding; it is said to have derived its name from one of the fair sex, ycleped a bedmaker, who invariably recommended the mixture so named as a never failing panacea.
Recipe. Dissolve a quarter of a pound of brown sugar in one pint of water, slice a lemon into it, let it stand a quarter of an hour, then add a small quantity of pulverized cloves and cinnamon, half a pint of brandy, and one quart of good strong ale; stir it well together, put a couple of slices of toasted bread into it, grate some nutmeg and ginger on the toast, and it is fit for use. Ice it well and it will prove a good summer, warm it and it will become a pleasant winter, beverage. It is drank chiefly at dinner.
‘Herrick’, Twelfth Night, or King and Queen.
Next crowne the bowle full
With gentle Lambs wooll,
Adde sugar, nutmeg, and ginger,
With store of all too,
And thus ye must doe
To make the Wassaile a swinger.
Lambs Wool is merely a variety of the Wassail Bowl, and although not common in Oxford, is a great favourite in some parts of England. The following is the origin of the term Lambs Wool, as applied to this particular beverage. Formerly the first day of November was dedicated to the Angel presiding over fruits, seeds, &c. and was therefore named La mas ubal, that is, The day of the apple fruit, and being pronounced lamasool, our country people hare corrupted it to Lambs Wool. Lambs Wool was anciently often met with in Ireland’, but is now rarely heard of in that country, having been entirely superseded by the more intoxicating liquor called Whiskey.
* See Col. Valiancy, Collect, de Reb. Hibern. iii. 441. f Brand’s Popul. Antiq.i. 312.
Mix the pulp of half a dozen roasted apples with some raw sugar, a grated nutmeg, and a small quantity of ginger. Add one quart of strong ale made moderately warm. Stir the whole well together, and, if sweet enough, it is fit for use. This mixture is sometimes served up in a bowl, with sweet cakes floating in it.
From the foundation of Brasenose College to the present time a custom has prevailed, of introducing into the refectory on Shrove Tuesday, immediately after dinner, what is denominated Brasenose Ale, but which in fact is a species of Lambs Wool. Verses in praise of Brasenose Ale are annually written by one of the Undergraduates, and a copy of them sent to every resident member of the College. The following Stanzas are extracted from a copy of recent date.
Shall all our singing now be o’er,
Since Christmas carols fail ?
No ! let us shout one stanza more
In praise of Brasenose Ale!
A fig for Horace and his juice,
Falernian and Massic;
Far better drink can we produce,
Though ’tis not quite so Classic.
Not all the liquors Rome e’er had
Can beat our matchless Beer;
Apicius’ self had gone stark mad,
To taste such noble cheer.
BRASENOSE ALE RECIPE.
Three quarts of ale, sweetened with refined sugar finely pulverized, and served up in a bowl with six roasted apples floating in it.
Non Vitis, sed Apis succum tibi mitto bibendum,
Quern legimus Bardos olim potasse Britannos.
Qualibet in bacca Vitis Megera latescit,
Qualibet in gutta Mellis Aglaia nitet.
The juice of Bees, not Bacchus, here behold,
Which British Bards were wont to quaff of old ;
The berries of the grape with Furies swell,
But in the honeycomb the Graces dwell.
James Howell. Clerk of the Privy Council in 1640, and sometime Fellow of Jesus College in this University.
Metheglin is probably derived from the Welch Meodyglyn, a medical drink, and was once the natural beverage of a great part of this country, and according to some authors is the *Hydromel of the ancients.
* In fevers, the aliments prescribed by Hippocrates were ptisans and cream of barley, hydromel, that is, honey and water, where there was no tendency to delirium. Arbuthtiot.
Howell, in one of his familiar letters, on presenting a friend with a bottle of Metheglin, thus speaks of it; “Neither Sir John Barleycorn or Bacchus had anything to do with it, but it is the pure juice of the bee, the laborious bee, and the king of insects; the Druids and old British Bards were wont to take a carouse hereof before they entered into their speculations. But this drink always carries a kind of state with it, for it must be attended with a brown toast; nor will it admit but of one good draught, and that in the morning; if more, it will keep a humming in the head, and so speak too much of the house it comes from, I mean, the hive.”
Indeed almost every other author who has written on the subject affirms, that before the introduction of Agriculture into this island, honey diluted with water (i.e. Metheglin) was the only strong drink known to, and was a great favourite among, the Ancient Britons. Metheglin is usually divided into the Simple and the Vinous. Simple Metheglin is that which has not been fermented, and the Vinous is that which has obtained a spirit by fermentation.
Take as much new honey separated from the comb which, when well mixed with water, will be of such a consistency as to bear an egg; boil this liquor for one hour; let it stand covered up till the next morning, and, if it is then quite cold, put it into a cask. To every fifteen gallons add pulverized ginger, mace, cinnamon, and cloves, of each an ounce. To promote fermentation, put into the bunghole two table-spoons full of yeast. When it has done working stop it up, and in a month or six weeks it will be in a state to be drawn off into bottles.
MEAD AND BRAGGON (OR BRAGGET).
These do not differ materially from Metheglin; they are indeed varieties of the same. Howell says, “they differ in strength according to the three degrees of comparison, Metheglin being strong in the superlative, and if taken immoderately doth stupefy more than any other liquor.”
The following are the methods of preparing them.
Mix the whites of six eggs with twelve gallons of spring water; add twenty pounds of the best virgin honey and the peeling of three lemons; boil it an hour, and then put into it some *rosemary, cloves, mace, and ginger; when it is quite cold, add a spoonful or two of yeast, tun it, and when it has done working, stop it up close. In a few months bottle it off, and deposit it in a cellar of cool temperature. Some prefer it without the spices, others without lemons.
To each gallon of water add four pounds of the whitest, purest, and best tasted honey, and the peeling of two lemons; boil it half an hour. Scum it when cold. Put it into a cask, add some yeast to it; when it has done fermenting, stop the cask up close, and at the expiration of eight months bottle it off. If this liquor is properly kept, the taste of the honey will go off, and it will resemble Tokay both in strength and flavour.
* The best honey known is that of Narbonne in France, where rosemary abounds, it having a very strong flavour of that plant.