HINTS TO CUP-BREWERS
There are certain things to be observed in the compounding of cups, which, though patent to every man’s common sense, we may be pardoned for mentioning. When a drink is to be served hot, never let the mixture boil, but let the heat be applied as gently as possible: a fierce heat causes the spirit to evaporate, and moreover destroys or materially alters the fine aromatic flavour on which so much of its delicacy depends. When the hot cup is brewed, be careful to retain the heat as much as possible, by a covering to the vessel; and let it not be served till the moment it is required.
On the other hand, when a cool cup is to be made, its greatest adjunct is ice, in lumps, which may either be retained in the cup, or, what is preferable, a portion of pounded ice should be violently shaken with the mixture and afterwards strained off. The best way of pounding ice is to wrap a block of it in a napkin and beat it with a mallet or rolling-pin; and the only way of breaking up a block of ice into conveniently sized pieces with accuracy is by using a large needle or other sharp pointed instrument, and striking it with a hammer.
The rind of lemon and orange is of great service in flavouring cups; and it is of the utmost importance that this should be pared as thinly as possible, for it is only in the extreme outer portion that the flavour is contained. In making all cups, &c, where lemon peel is employed, reject the white part altogether, as worse than useless—it imparts an unpleasant flavour to the beverage, and tends to make it muddy and discoloured.
It was customary in olden times, as well as at the present, to communicate flavouring to compound drinks by means of different herbs, among which first in point of flavour is considered Borage, which is mentioned, as early as the 13th century, as growing in the garden of John De Garlande; and in a list of plants of the 15th century, Borage stands first. It is spoken of in the commencement of the 18th century as one of the four cordial flowers, being of known virtue to revive the hypochondriac and cheer the hard student.
This Borage is a plant having a small blue flower, and growing luxuriantly in most gardens; by placing a sprig or two of it in any cool drink, it communicates a peculiar refreshing flavour which cannot be imitated by any other means. When, however, Borage cannot be procured, a thin slice of cucumber-peel forms a very good substitute; but care must be taken to use but one slice, or the cup will be too much impregnated with the flavour to be palatable.
A small piece from the outer rind of the stalk is considered by some to possess superior excellence. We have made many experiments to extract this peculiar flavouring from Borage, in all of which we have been totally unsuccessful; nor do we imagine it possible to separate it from the plant, in order to gain these peculiar properties. Balm is another herb which is used for flavouring drinks: but we do not recommend it, although we find it spoken of in an old medical work as a very good help to digestion, and to open obstructions to the brain, &c.
Mint gives an agreeable flavour to Juleps, but is not of general application. A sprig of sweet-scented verbena, put into some cups, imparts an aromatic and agreeable flavour; but all these herbs must be used with caution, and are only pleasant when judiciously introduced.
Let your utensils be clean, and your ingredients of first-rate quality, and, unless you have some one very trustworthy and reliable, take the matter in hand yourself; for nothing is so annoying to the host, or so unpalatable to the guests, as a badly compounded cup. In order that the magnitude of this important business may be fully understood and properly estimated, we will transfer some of the excellent aphoristic remarks of the illustrious Billy Dawson (though we have not the least idea who he was), whose illustricity consisted in being the only man who could brew Punch. This is his testimony:—
“The man who sees, does, or thinks of anything while he is making Punch, may as well look for the North-west Passage on Mutton Hill. A man can never make good Punch unless he is satisfied, nay positive, that no man breathing can make better. I can and do make good Punch, because I do nothing else; and this is my way of doing it. I retire to a solitary corner, with my ingredients ready sorted; they are as follows; and 1 mix them in the order they are here written. Sugar, twelve tolerable lumps; hot water, one pint; lemons, two, the juice and peel; old Jamaica rum, two gills; brandy, one gill; porter or stout, half a gill; arrack, a slight dash. I allow myself five minutes to make a bowl on the foregoing proportions, carefully stirring the mixture as I furnish the ingredients until it actually foams; and then, Kangaroos! how beautiful it is!”
If, however, for convenience, you place the matter in the hands of your domestic, I would advise you to caution her on the importance of the office, and this could not be better effected than by using the words of the witty Dr. King:—
“O Peggy, Peggy, when thou go’st to brew, Consider well what you ‘re about to do;
Be very wise—very sedately think ,That what you ‘re going to make is—drink;
Consider who must drink that drink, and then, What ’tis to have the praise of honest men;
Then future ages shall of Peggy tell, The nymph who spiced the brewages so well.”
Respecting the size of the cup no fixed rule can be laid down, because it must mainly depend upon the number who have to partake of it; and be it remembered that, as cups are not intended to be quaffed ad libitum, as did Bicias, of whom Cornelius Agrippa says— let quality prevail over quantity, and try to hit a happy medium between the cup of Nestor, which was so large that a young man could not carry it, and the country half-pint of our own day, which we have heard of as being so small that a string has to be tied to it to prevent it slipping down with the cider.
“To Bicias shee it gave, and sayd, ‘Drink of this cup of myne’.
He quickly quafte it, and left not, Of licoure any sygne,”
In order to appreciate the delicacy of a well-compounded cup, we would venture to suggest this laconic rule, “When you drink—think.” Many a good bottle has passed the first round, in the midst of conversation, without its merits being discovered.