Up Spirits


Those of my readers who are religiously or philosophically opposed to the consumption of alcohol may wish to pass further down the car. Or, if you are courageous, stay with me as I explain the title of today’s column.

Up Spirits. A traditional call for the Royal Navy when it was fuelled by an equal measure of pride and rum. It was the time of the naval day that made loyalty to ship and shipmates. The sailors got a tot of rum, watered down from the base spirit, and were allowed to drink it aboard their ship.

There were traditions involved. A special barrel for the mixed grog. A special measure for the tot. An ordered distribution – ordered by tradition and by policing – and a certain dignity in the dispensation and the reception. The sailors of the Royal Navy were ENTITLED to grog, EXPECTED grog, and RECEIVED grog, and the Royal Navy was the best navy on the seas at the time.

The grog was distributed between 11:00 AM and 12:00 noon. 70 ml of  95.5 proof rum diluted with two parts of water…but if you were a Petty Officer or above you could receive it neat.

Sadly, it has not survived the wowserism of the 1970’s. Britain, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand have all shelved the rum ration. The USN ditched it in the Civil War.

Here at The Little Studio we have a better appreciation of tradition. Up Spirits has been shifted to 3:00 PM when the bulk of the day’s writing and photographing has been completed. A copper measure is used to dole out the spirit of the day – it may be rum, whiskey, gin, or brandy as the cupboard affords – and modifiers such as vermouth, tonic water, or other such fripperies may be added. Fruit or ice may be involved but this is merely seasonal artistry and does not affect the basic tot.

The traditional toast for the Queen or King is appropriate, and on other occasions a toast may be also raised to the Republic of France, to the Dominion of Canada, or to the United States Of America. The Commonwealth of Australia gets a special mention on Australia Day. Alamo Day leads to a toast to the Republic of Texas.

It acts as a welcome signal that the worst part of the day is over, and that the household ship has survived yet another voyage. The initial effect is disbursed by the time that dinner must be cooked and served, and there is even a little time at sunset to feel mellow.

The spirits are up.


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