19. The Invention of Grog
The British Royal Navy initially issued the daily ration of a half-pint of neat to its sailors. That began to change in the 1740s, when Admiralty regulations made it compulsory to mix the rum with a quart of water, in a 1:4 ratio. That concoction came to be known as “grog”, after Vice Admiral Edward Vernon, nicknamed “Old Grog” because of a grogram coat he wore at sea. He introduced the diluted rum to his West Indies squadron in 1740, and from there, and the practice eventually spread to the rest of the navy.
In 1756, Admiralty regulations directed the addition of lemon or lime juice to help ward off scurvy. At the height of the Age of Sail in the era of the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars, British ships were powered by wind, but British sailors were said to be powered by rum. Twice daily, at noon and again at sunset, the Tars would muster on deck in a “rum line” to collect their daily rum ration. On special occasions, by way of reward or to celebrate victories, captains might issue their crews a double ration – a full pint of rum.