When I want a warm winter’s drink, my go to is hot chocolate or coffee (with real cream!) or maybe eggnog, if I’ve got time to deal with the sugar high! But what did our Regency folk drink? The word ‘negus’ sprang to mind as I was writing the other day, and I had to pause and make sure I was remembering a real thing! Indeed, negus is a drink mentioned by Austen and others of the time period.
What is it?
A basic recipe:
- 3 parts port
- 1 part lemon juice
- 1/2 part sugar or sugar syrup
- Topped off with boiling water
One website instructed that the port should be tawny port (10 years old), which took me down another rabbit hole. Soon I was reading about ruby vs. tawny port (aren’t all the words just so beautiful and visual?) Tawny port is aged in wooden casks and ruby is aged in a bottle… And once I began reading about wooden casks I had an overwhelming urge to reread The Lord of the Rings or something equally high fantasy, because doesn’t wooden casks just make you feel the texture of a medieval tavern?
Where was I?
Oh yes! So at a winter’s ball, our heroine might very well have some negus. Since it was topped off with water, it had less alcohol than the Bishop– a similar drink that negus was adapted from– and was perfectly appropriate for women. The Bishop cocktail used rum instead of water, so you can imagine how that might work.
What else might our heroine drink?
I’m not sure if she would have had it at a ball, but eggnog was definitely a possibility. It was derived from the medieval posset, and eventually made its way to the American colonies in the 18th century. Somewhere around then it became associated with Christmas and New Years. George Washington even wrote down his own recipe which went as follows:
One quart cream, one quart milk, one dozen tablespoons sugar, one pint brandy, 1/2 pint rye whiskey, 1/2 pint Jamaica rum, 1/4 pint sherry—mix liquor first, then separate yolks and whites of eggs, add sugar to beaten yolks, mix well. Add milk and cream, slowly beating. Beat whites of eggs until stiff and fold slowly into mixture. Let set in cool place for several days. Taste frequently.
“Taste frequently,” is always good advice, right?? He didn’t specify how many eggs to use, but one article I read speculated that it would be about a dozen. It also lasts incredibly well. My mother-in-law made a batch one year that we shared for several Christmases! (Actually I didn’t drink more than a sip–I’m not much for alcohol flavors–but it really blew my mind that it was still good!)
Looks like the wassail has already been covered here on Austen Authors, so go check out that recipe, if you’ve got a hankering for it!
I wrote a short story for Elizabeth and Darcy this year; it’s not that complex, but it gave me a chance to enjoy a slightly different angle on Darcy’s arrival in Hertfordshire! He arrives just before Christmas and too late to stop Bingley proposing to Jane, though he wishes he’d been there in time! Some of you may have already read it–thank you so much!– but if you haven’t, keep reading!
I HAVE 3 eBOOK COPIES of “A Winter’s Ball” available to those who COMMENT below. The giveaway will run through Midnight EST, on WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 30. Winners will be announced on SUNDAY, JANUARY 3, 2021.
Thanks so much for reading!