Tea, coffee or something a little stronger? Very much as today, the Georgians enjoyed their tea and coffee with coffee houses appearing all over London, but less so away from the capital. If you wanted something a little stronger, then ale or gin were popular choices. Those Georgians were nothing if not inventive and if they thought something could be used to make a drink they would certainly give it a go. They would also partake of some more unusual drinks that would perhaps have less appeal to us today.
If you read a popular book of the 1790s entitled ‘The Housekeeper’s valuable present: or, lady’s closet companion’, you would find a recipe or receipt as they were then known as, for Birch wine. This wine was made from birch trees when then sap was rising in early spring.
The recipe states that to every gallon of birch water you should add two pounds of sugar, boil it for half an hour, pour away the grounds, then work it well with yeast and pour into your cask with brimstone. The author also recommended adding a small bag of raisins before leaving it to stand for three to four months before bottling it.
Take three gallons of water and one quart of honey, if not strong enough add more honey. Boil it for an hour, then put it into a tub with ginger and spices, add the whites of eight eggs, work it well with yeast and when you perceive it to be done, bottle it.
Take two quarts of milk, a quart of good brandy, the juice of six lemons and half a pound of sugar. Mix them well and strain through a jelly bag, add a little lemon peel. Strain the mixture and bottle it. It will keep for some considerable time.
Take three gallons of molasses brandy, three and a half ounces of nutmeg. Infuse the nutmeg in the brandy. Add three grains of amber grease, one and a half pounds of bitter almonds and three pounds of Lisbon sugar. Infuse it all for seven or eight days before using.
To six gallons of water put thirty pounds of Malaga raisins; boil the water for two hours, and then measure it out of the copper upon the raisins, which must be chopped small and put into a tub; let them work together for ten days, stirring it several times a day, then strain it off and squeeze the raisins hard to get out their strength. Take two spoons of good ale yeast, mix with six ounces of syrup of lemons, gradually add in three pecks of cowslips. Let all the ingredients work together for three days, stirring it three or four times a day, at the end of four months bottle it.
Mix well pounded Jordan almonds that had been blanched. Add a little orange water, two quarts of water strain through a fine sieve. Put the strained mixture into seven pints of sugar, boil to the degree called crack’d. Let it simmer for ten minutes, leave to cool, then bottle.
Not feeling well, then why not try Dr Boerhaave’s sweet buttermilk
Take the milk from the cow into a small churn, of about six shillings price; in about ten minutes begin churning and continue till the flakes of butter swim about pretty thick, and the milk is discharged of all the greasy particles and appear thin and blue. Strain it through a sieve and drink as frequently as possible.
As recommended by Maria Eliza Rundell. No, we’re not sure about that one either!
Would any of these recipes work or be palatable to us today, we really couldn’t comment, but it might be fun to try them.
Courtesy of Lewis Walpole Library