Mid-Atlantic Brewing News February/March 2009

 Mixing it Up

 By Rich Wagner

One of the first things I discovered about food and drink form bygone days was how much tastes have changed. I’ve often said that what passed for “tolerable ale” back then would probably be spat out and labeled “bad homebrew” by today’s discerning palate. Most recently, I made a maple spruce beer (without boiling it) by diluting some maple syrup and throwing a couple of spruce twigs into a flask with bakers yeast just to have an example of something fermenting for one of my colonial brewing demonstrations. There is no polite way to describe how that tasted! The story of how porter began as “three threads;” a mixture of “stale ale, brown ale and two-penny ale” gives us a clue as to how our forebears stretched the lifespan of commodities to avoid wasting anything.

Before the days of soda Innkeepers were not hampered by an dearth of mixers, they just mixed things together that we might find incongruous. I’m not a big fan of heated beer and wine, but colonists seem to have enjoyed such drinks, especially with spices added. I’ve never seen the fascination with “boiler-makers” but apparently ale was commonly spiked with gin and rum before the days of tonic and seltzer water.

Recently I stocked up on some distilled spirits and tried a few of the recipes listed below. You may want to improvise your own version of some of these drinks by substituting seltzer for “the beaten white of an egg,” and let me warn you that a little nutmeg goes a long; repeat a very long way!

One of the most popular drinks was the “ale flip” made with a quart of ale heated almost to boiling. While the ale is heating, beat four eggs (some recipes specify egg whites), add a half cup of sugar and four ounces of rum. Beat until frothy, place in a pitcher and pour back and forth with the heated ale until it’s “smooth as cream.” To prepare an “American flip” also known as “One Yard of Flannel,” add crush grated ginger, nutmeg and dried lemon peel to the egg and sugar mixture. As a variation you can substitute brandy for the rum. Molasses and dried pumpkin were the usual substitutes for sugar in New England. For dramatic effect and burnt flavor, plunge a red-hot poker from the fire into your tankard of flip!

A “Rumfustian” is similar to the flip but eight ounces of sherry and four ounces of gin is mixed with the quart of ale. Another variation involves a quart of strong beer, a bottle of white wine or sherry and a half pint of gin.

To make a “Bellows” Mix one pint of heavy cream with four eggs and a quarter pound of sugar, blend till smooth. To a quart tankard add one jigger of rum and two thirds of a quart of beer or cider and add 6 tablespoons of the cream mixture, then stir with a red hot poker until it foams.

Syllibubs” were mixtures of milk or cream whipped into a froth with wine, beer or cider and flavored with spices. One recipe calls for a quart of beer or ale and an equal amount of cider mixed together in a large bowl with a little grated nutmeg, sweetened with sugar. The original recipe finished off with “now milk a cow rapidly into the ale and against the side of the bowl in order to raise a froth and let stand for one hour.”

Punch was a favorite and is the focus of Peter Thompson’s book Rum Punch and Revolution which illustrates the pivotal role played by taverns in the founding of our country. To make a “Bishop” grill three oranges to a pale brown color and add them to a punch bowl. Pour in half pint from a bottle of “old” Bordeaux wine and dissolve a quarter pound of sugar. Cover with a plate and let stand for two days. When ready to serve, cut and squeeze the oranges through a sieve into the remainder of the wine which has been heated. A “Cardinal” is made by substituting “old” Rhenish wine for Bordeaux. Lisbon wine can be substituted, raisins, mace, cloves and nutmeg can be added, but the The Practical Housewife (1860) says this is not the proper way!

Here’s a pretty standard recipe for making punch: “take two or three bottle of water – according to whether the drink is desired strong or weak – a bottle of brandy, the juice of six to twelve lemons, strained through a clean cloth, or a piece of linen, and a pound more or less of sugar – according to the sweetness desired. All this is mixed together. Finally a little nutmeg is scraped into it, after which one has a very pleasant drink.”

Cider was very popular. I’ve seen various descriptions of “Cider Royal” which can be cider and mead fermented together; new cider fermented with applejack (distilled cider); or cider that has been reduced by boiling, then fortified with brandy and sugar. A “Bang” starts with a pint of cider, a pint of warm ale; sweetened to taste with grated nutmeg and ginger, along with a wineglass full of gin or whisky. To make a “Stewed Quaker” take a pint of hot cider and add apple brandy to taste. A “Stonewall” is hard cider and rum.

Ebulum” is elder and juniper berry juice mixed with ale and spices. To make a “Calibogus” mix two ounces of rum with a bottle of spruce beer. “Hotch Pot” is warmed beer, with rum in it. “Rattle-skull” is made by combining one ounce rum, one ounce brandy, four ounces sherry and a pint of porter. And to make a “Splitting Headache,” just take two quarts of beer, add eight ounces of rum, six cloves, half teaspoon each of cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger, a cup of lime juice and serve.