First and foremost among compound drinks, with regard to priority of date, stands Hydromel, the favourite beverage of the ancient Britons, which is probably the same as that made and used at the present day under the name of Metheglin, a word derived from the Welsh Medey-glin, and spoken of by Howell, who was Clerk to the Privy Council in 1640. In ancient times, however, this compound was made by simply diluting honey with water; but, at the present day, substances are usually added to it to cause it to ferment; and when made in this way, it differs little from mead or bragget.
Recipe for Metheglin.
To nine gallons of boiling water put twenty-eight pounds of honey, add the peel of three lemoDs, with a small quantity of ginger, mace, cloves, and rosemary; when this is quite cold, add two tablespoonfuls of yeast. Put this into a cask, and allow it to ferment; at the expiration of six months, bottle it off for use.
Recipe for Lamb’s Wool.
Another favourite drink in olden times was that called ‘Lamb’s Wool’, which derived its name from the 1st of November, a day dedicated to the angel presiding over fruits and seeds, and termed ‘La Mas-ubal’, which has subsequently been corrupted into ‘lamb’s wool’.
To one quart of strong hot ale add the pulp of six roasted apples, together with a small quantity of grated nutmeg and ginger, with a sufficient quantity of raw sugar to sweeten it; stir the mixture assiduously, and let it be served hot.
Recipe for Wassail.
Of equal antiquity, and of nearly the same composition, is the Wassail Bowl, which in many parts of England is still partaken of on Christmas Eve, and is alluded to by Shakspeare in his ” Midsummer Night’s Dream.” In Jesus College, Oxford, we are told, it is drunk on the Festival of St. David, out of a silver-gilt bowl holding ten gallons, which was presented to that College by Sir Watkin William Wynne, in 1732.
Recipe for the Wassail Bowl. Put into a quart of warm beer one pound of raw sugar, on which grate a nutmeg and some ginger; then add four glasses of sherry and two quarts more of beer, with three slices of lemon; add more sugar, if required, and serve it with three slices of toasted bread floating in it.
Another genus of beverages, if so it may be termed, of considerable antiquity, comprise those compositions having milk for their basis, or, as Dr. Johnson describes them, ‘milk curdled with wine and other acids’, known under the name of Possets—such as milk-possets, pepper posset, cider-posset, or egg-posset. Most of these, nowadays, are restricted to the bed-chamber, where they are taken in cases of catarrh, to act as agreeable soporifics.
They appear to us to be too much associated with tallow applied to the nose, to induce us to give recipes for their composition, although in olden times they seem to have been drunk on festive occasions, as Shakspeare says— “We will have a posset at the end of a sea-coal fire”; and Sir John Suckling, who lived in the early part of the 17th century, has in one of his poems the line—”In came the bridesmaids with the posset.”
The Grace-cup and Loving-cup appear to be synonymous terms for a beverage, the drinking of which has been from time immemorial a great feature at the corporation dinners in London and other large towns, as also at the feasts of the various trade companies and the Inns of Court,—the mixture of which is a compound of wine and spices, formerly called ‘Sack’, and is handed round the table, before the removal of the cloth, in large silver cups, from which no one is allowed to drink before the guest on either side of him has stood up; the person who drinks then rises and bows to his neighbours.
This custom is said to have originated in the precaution to keep the right or dagger hand employed, as it was a frequent practice with the Danes to stab their companions in the back at the time they were drinking. The most notable instance of this was the treachery employed by Elfrida, who stabbed King Edward the Martyr at Corfe Castle whilst thus engaged.
At the Temple the custom of the Loving-cup is strictly observed. The guests are only supposed to take one draught from it as it passes; but, in No. 110 of the ‘Quarterly Review’, a writer says, “Yet it chanced, not long since at the Temple, that, though the number present fell short of seventy, thirty-six quarts of the liquor were consumed.”
Julep, derived from the Persian word Julap (a sweetened draught), is a beverage spoken of by John Quincey, the physician, who died in 1723, and also mentioned by Milton in the lines— “Behold this cordial Julep here, That foams and dances in his crystal bounds, With spirits of balm and fragrant syrups mix’d”.
This drink is now made by pounding ice and white sugar together, and adding to it a wine-glass of brandy, half a wine-glass of rum, and a piece of the outer rind of a lemon; these ingredients are shaken violently, and two or three sprigs of fresh mint are stuck in the glass; it is then usually imbibed through a straw, or stick of macaroni.
One of the oldest of winter beverages, and an especial favourite, both in ancient and modern times, in our Universities, is “Bishop,” also known on the Continent under the somewhat similar name of Bischof. This, according to Swift, is composed of
“Fine oranges, Well roasted, with sugar and wine in a cup, They’ll make a sweet Bishop when gentlefolks sup”. This recipe is given verbatim in ‘Oxford Night-caps’.