Regency Either/Or!

CoronetNicola here! I have one arm in a sling this week after
unexpectedly needing some treatment to my shoulder and as a result I can’t type
much. So for my blog today I thought I would post up a little game for everyone
called Regency Either/Or. I shamelessly borrowed this idea from Honorary Word
Wench Mia Marlowe who has a very fun version of this on her blog. I hope you enjoy
it and share your choices and your own suggestions!

Duke of Mr?

Actually these days I think that should be Prince or Mr. I
have noticed title inflation in some historical romances rather like the
millionaire to billionaire inflation in some contemporary romance books. Whilst
a Duke (or Prince) is frightfully authoritative and powerful I have a soft spot
for a Mr. On the other hand teh duke gets to wear the cute coronet above.

Debutante or courtesan?

I don’t mind a debutante heroine if she has a bit of
gumption and isn’t too “straight out of the schoolroom.” As for courtesans,
well everyone deserves to find true love.

Swords or pistols?

Which is your weapon of choice? By 1770 the sword was
considered very old-fashioned and pistols were
Duelling pistols
all the rage. But gentlemen,
remember: would it not be more mature – and less dangerous – simply to apologise? There is no dishonour in that.

Brandy or claret?

“Claret
is the liquor for boys; port for men; but he who aspires to be a hero must
drink brandy.” Dr Johnson. Need I say more?

Signet ring or diamond cravat pin?

A signet ring, especially one bearing the arms of the hero’s
family, suggests a reassuringly ancient pedigree. Is a diamond cravat pin just
too bling?


StagecoachCurricle or stagecoach?

Who could resist the sports car of its day? But if you
do take a ride in a curricle make sure that the driver is a noted whip and not
someone who cannot handle his cattle. Let’s not dismiss the stage out of hand,
though. You can meet very interesting people on public transport.

Highwayman, smuggler of pirate?

Ok, I know it's cheating to have three but when it comes to heroes who like to walk on the wrong side of the law, how do you choose?

Now it's your turn. Answer as many as you like or make up your own!

A Flask of Regency Liquor

A la bonne bouteilleNo, Sir, claret is the liquor for boys; port, for men: but he who aspires to be a hero must drink brandy.
Samuel Johnson

Joanna here, talking about Regency tipples.  The hard-drinking Regency or Georgian gentleman is such a stock figure in Romance, it's worth stopping a minute to wonder what sort of liquor he was likely to be imbBeer brewingibing. 

There was ale and beer, of course, and their cousin, porter.  Ale and beer weren't precisely a gentleman's drink, but it's likely your hero lifted a mug of ale before the hunt and he may well have drunk beer with his breakfast, especially if he lived in the deep country. 

Beer and ale were drinks native to England, universal, and cheap.  The drink of the people, as it were.  Even small children drank a low-alcohol sort of beer called 'small beer' made from the second or third re-fermentation of the mash during brewing and containing just enough alcohol to preserve the drink.

Singleton_Ale-House_Door_1790By the Regency, the distinction between ale and beer lay not so much in the ingredients that made them up, as in the proportions.

Ale differs from beer in having fewer hops, which, giving less bitterness, leaves more of the soft smooth sweetness of the malt. It is usual, too, to brew it with pale malt, so that it is not so brown as beer. 
Scenes of British Wealth, Isaac Taylor, 1825.

Porterlater this was also called 'stout'was a style of strong, dark, well-aged beer dating back to the Eighteenth Century, much favored by the working class of London.  Thus 'porter', because porters drank it.  Not a stylish beverage.  If you're wondering what it was like; Guinness is stout.

Why so much beer drinking?  I read, here and there, the thought that folks drank beer or ale instead of water because the water was contaminated.  Beer is boiled during the fermentation process and afterwards the alcWomen drinking beer manetoholic content kills off pathogens.  In a land of contaminated water, beer is a lot safer to drink.  The argument is that historical people somehow sensed this. 

This has always struck me as applying twenty-first century attitudes back into historical times.  The modern popularity of beer or wineor coke for that matterisn't an indication folks don't trust the water. 

I think folks in Regency times made beer as a way of handily preserving grain; they drank beer because they liked the taste; and probably, like modern folks, they enjoyed getting a little tipsy.

. . .  sober maids are wooed in wine.
Samuel Johnson

Wine, not beer, was the gentlemanly table drink, being imported and expensive and therefore fancier.  Agricultural experimentation, starting in Roman times, had demonstrated the sad truth that England is not a wine-producing country.   I wonder if some of the ancient conflict between England and France boils down to a certain jealousy that France can make wine and England can't. 

It was to France the English had traditionally turned to fill up their glass.  The two decades of war between England and France made the enjoyment of French wines more problematic.  Our Regency gentleman, who would once have poured out Bordeaux, (which they were likely to call claret,) burgundy, hermitage, (from the Rhône region south of Lyon,) or a sparkling champagne, now maybe substituted Tokay, an old favorite from Hungary, or hock, which was a catchall term for German wines. 

Amontillado wikiBut he might also have turned to some new favorites the English had found among the wines of Spain, Portugal and the mid-Atlantic islandsthe wines called Madeira, Malaga, port, or sherry.  Sherry, which, just to liven things up, was also called sack or Canary. 

Next time you see a character in a book with sherry-colored eyes, that over on the left is probably what the author means.  That's a mid-range sherry.  Sherry runs all the way from clear to dark brown.   

These new favorites were fortified wines, most of them heavy and sweet.  They were made by mixing traditional varieties of light, generally sweet wines and then adding brandy at some specific point in the fermentation process.  This fixed the flavor and sugar content and brought the alcohol level up to 15% or 20%.  The high alcohol prevented spoilage during shipment.  These fortified wines were less temperamental in the keg and the robust alcohol level was a nice compromise between ordinary wine and harder liquors.

A fortified wine like port was likely to be passed around the table after a fine dinner when the ladies had withdrawn and the gentlemen could start telling dirty jokes.  Meanwhile the ladies, in the salon, were helping themselves to a ladylike glass of 30-proof sherry and engaging in their own risqué conversations. 

Zwiebelflasche Sherry bottleI don't want to zip right past wine without saying that the size of the ordinary historical wine bottle may have been determined by the amount of air in a glassblower's lungs.  Georgian and earlier wine bottles had a long-necked, onion-bodied shape, which made them a bit less likely to get knocked over.  Wine bottles assumed the bullet shape we're so familiar with today when transportation improved in the Eighteenth century.

Early wine was shipped in kegs.  The householder or tavern owner tapped the keg and poured it into the nearest pitcher or bottle.  In the Eighteenth Century, better roads led individual wine growers to bottle their own wine.  The long, cylindrical bottle with a tight cork could be stacked and stored on its side and shipped economically.

When our Regency gentleman wasn't drinking wine, what were the other choices?  There was a formidable array of distilled liquors for him; brandy, arrack, whiskey, gin, cognac, rum, and cordials of every sort.  Exotic drinksAbsinthe-ducros-fils-110kb could be brought back from odd corners of the Continent; kirshwasser, distilled from cherries in Switzerland and Germany; vermouth, from Italy; maybe a bottle of Green Chartreuse liqueur brought out of France and hoarded from before the Revolution. Absinthe, the green liqueur containing wormwood, was being made in France, preparing for a long career as the decadent man's drink of choice. 

Considering a few of these 

Geneva was the period name for what we'd call gin.  It was probably not passed around the table after dinner by your average Regency gentleman, gin being notoriously the beverage of the depraved lower class.  The nickname, 'blue ruin', seems applicable.

The poet, also, is disguised, and seems, if we may use his own mixed phraseology, to have "drunk deep" of blue ruin, instead of the "Pierian spring."
Monthly Review, Ralph Griffiths

 
Arrack.  This was strong liquor imported from India and the East Indies, made from any of a number of 220px-Cocos_nucifera_-_Köhler–s_Medizinal-Pflanzen-187grains, such as rice, along with sugar and the juice of the coconut tree.  It was regularly imported into England from the Eighteenth Century onward.  It seems to have been drunk, in England, mainly as an ingredient in punch.

Not to keep thee longer in suspense ; last night, it seems, the infamous woman got so heartily intoxicated with her beloved liquor, arrack punch, at the expense of Colonel Salter, that, mistaking her way, she fell down a pair of stairs, and broke her leg:
Clarissa, Samuel Richardson

Was arrack punch a wee bit vulgar?  Our sporting gentlemen probably preferred a rum punch when he met friends at the inn after a long day's ride.

Brandy.  Gessa y ariasAh.  Now here is the quintessential liquor for our Regency gentleman.  This is what lurks in the decanter he hands round the table after dinner.  This is the tot served to male guests in the library.  When in doubt, the hero pours brandy.

Brandy is distilled from wine.  Eau-de-vie is most properly the distilled liquor made from other fruits or grains, but in this period they were often called brandies as well.   

So you could have a 'brandy' made by fermenting peaches.  Or you could have a brandy made from grape wine that was later infused with the flavor of peaches.  These fruit-infused brandies were made by soaking crushed fruits like cherries, apricots or blackcurrents in brandy.  There are numerous recipes for this.

To make Cherry Brandy. Take six pounds of cherries, half red and half black.  Mash or squeeze them to pieces with your hands, and put to them three gallons of brandy, letting them stand steeping twenty-four hours; then put the mashed cherries and liquor, a little at a time, into a canvass bag, and press it as long as any juice will run; sweeten it to your taste; put it into a vessel fit for it; let it stand a month, and bottle it out. Put a lump of loaf sugar into every bottle.
The Frugal Housewife, Susannah Carter, 1800

  
Our gentleman will almost certainly serve French brandy, though it seems a bit vulgar to mention the origin.  A gentleman will take that for granted.  His brandy may, in fact, come from Cognac, a region so famous for brandy that the liquor is simply called Cognac. 

He has delivered himself over to strong libations of pure cognac, and is daily plunged in intoxication and stupor
Patrick Kennedy

Gilray punch_cures
Rum.  Our fashionable gentleman, unless he's spent his youth at sea, is unlikely to drink rum straight up, but if he's a sporting gentleman, he will most probably drink rum punch.

It is made with rum, brandy, lemon, hot water, and sugar.  . . .  Put in as much sugar as the water will dissolve. If you brew, say, a quart of punch, let it contain the juice and the rind of one lemon. The juice, I say; not the pulp. The rind also; not all the peel; none of the white pith: only the yellow outside pared off thin . . .  Mix your hot water, sugar, and lemon. Let the water be boiling hot—fresh from the kettle on the fire.  . . .  put a wrapper consisting of a folded napkin over the mouth of your jug, and lay a thick octavo or some other equivalent body, over the mouth of that vessel, and let it stand for five minutes. Then add the liquors.
Punch

Whiskey.  Gaelic usquebaugh, from the Latin 'aqua vitae' or 'water of life', became 'whiskey' in English.  It's a distilled malted grain liquor.  Scotch whisky shares with French brandy the distinction of being an illegally smuggled import in England during the Regency.  Would our gentleman have served it? 

Well … if he were Scots or had spent time in Scotland, very possibly.  Or our gentleman might simply like to add the fillip of illegality to his after dinner relaxation.

Meissenier louvre C19 cropWhen I think of my historical gentleman, at ease, talking with a friend at the table, I think of him with a glass of good simple wine set at his elbow. Black Hawk

What about you?  When you settle down to talk to your friends, what drink do you like to sip, and why?

 

One lucky commenter will win a copy of Black Hawk.

 

Raising A Glass To Research!

Too-Wicked-to-Wed_2FINALCara/Andrea here,

Bb-3Researching the little details that add color and texture to a story is one of my favorite parts of writing a book. I’m one of those peculiar people who can hours in a museum examining the gold-threaded stitching on a military uniform or the get down on hands and knees to study the shape of a tea cabinet leg. Most of the things I learn never actually end up in the story. But reading about various subjects—or better yet, seeing objects and places in real life—help me, er, drink in the ambiance of the era.

Sometimes literally. Yes, research can be intoxicating!

Bb-11Too Wicked To WED, my new book, which came out last week, has a number of scenes set in a gaming hell. Now, last week I talked about cards. (The history of them, not how to gamble away your family fortune in a single night. I do draw the line just how far I’ll go to experience authenticity.) So it seemed only natural to take a look at the other staple of a gaming hell—wines and spirits!

"Let us have wine and women, mirth and laughter . . .” —Lord Byron

Bb1 Bb-9We all know our Regency bucks of the ton liked to tipple. Brandy, port, claret were among the favorites, And when talking about Regency drinking, one name comes to mind—Berry Brothers, the quintessential purveyor of spirits to anyone who was anyone. So during a recent trip to London, I decided to take a stroll down St, James’s Street and pay a call at Number Three.

Bb-12You have only to look at the outside of the shop to know you are seeing something special. It’s been in the very same spot since its founding in 1698. Notice the low sloping shape of the building? That’s because it was originally a part of Henry VIII’s tennis court. Another thing that may catch your eye is the sign of the coffee mill hanging above the front door. It, too, has an interesting history, for you see, the business was originally opened by the Widow Bourne (hmm, any relation, Joanna?) as a grocer’s shop named the Coffee Mill.

Bb-8The business was passed down through the family and by 1768 was a major supplier of coffee to the fashionable coffee houses and clubs—White’s and Boodles among them. Being on that date, they already began a unique tradition that lasted until the early twentieth century. The Bb-7charming fellow who showed me around the present-day Berry Brothers explained that scales large enough to weigh a person were not household items in the aristocratic townhouses of London. And so, many of the gentlemen of the time began stopping by to weigh themselves on the huge coffee scale in the main room. (It is still there today.) The weights were duly recorded in a ledger, and it apparently became a fashionable tradition. Many gentlemen came regularly for their entire lives. (Public weighings, with the exact number inscribed in a book that anyone could peruse? Honestly—only a man could have come up with THAT idea.) The thick ledgers are still on shelf, and Byron and Beau Brummell are among the illustrious names that can be found Bb-2within their dusty morocco-bound covers.
 The shop began selling wine to King George III, and its trade soon began to outpace coffee
sales. It was in 1803 that the first Berry—sixteen-year-old George—set foot on the hallowed floors. A distant relative of the Widow, he worked diligently to learn the business and the rest, as they say is history.

Bb-6Many wonderful pieces of art and memorabilia decorated the walls of Berry Brothers (Mr. Rudd was added right after WWI.) One of my favorites is a “certificate of loss” from White Star Lines, apologizing for the sinking of 69 cases of the company’s wine when the titanic went down. And of course, there are some marvelous old vintages on display as well. (As a sidenote, the shop still sells coffee, though few people are aware of it.)  After this delightful stroll through history, I left the premises extremely happy (and entirely sober—I promise!)

Bb-10So do you have a favorite shop that is steeped in history? Or getting into the “spirit” of  wines, have you ever had a memorable wine or port? I once tasted a 1938 port and an 1898 Madeira that were sublime. Lastly—how about a drink or punch recipe for the upcoming holidays. I’ll be giving away a signed copy of TOO WICKED TO WED to one randomly selected person who leaves a comment between now and Saturday evening!