Did 18th Century Sailors Drink Hot Toddies?

You learn the darndest things doing research for historical novels.

Royal Navy Grog Issue, 1942
Source: Wikimedia Commons

Although grog is a term that arose in the Royal Navy, 
keep in mind that Caution to the Wind is set in 1778.  
Some of those serving in the Amanda were Royal Navy 
men not five years before! 

As I mentioned in my post on historical research, I check and double check facts up until the very final moment when I turn in the approved galleys. The last stage is fun because I get to play a bit while feeding my natural curiosity.

Finishing up my final edits to the galleys for Caution to the Wind, I paused at this sentence:

Several sailors still had a hard time keeping their grog in their bellies and their feet underneath them when the Amanda pitched without warning.

Hmmm…Did sailors really drink grog, or is that just in the movies? If they did drink grog, would they have drank it in 1778? What the heck is grog anyway?

The first thing to check is the origin of the word to see if it’s appropriate for the time period. If not, the rest is mute, although still interesting.

According to Dictionary.com, grog is

1.  mixture of rum and water, often flavored with lemon, sugar, and spices and sometimes served hot.

1760 – 70;  
from Old Grog  (alluding to his grogram cloak), the nickname of Edward Vernon (died 1757), British admiral, who in 1740 ordered the alcoholic mixture to be served, instead of pure spirits, to sailors.

That makes it the right time period for the story. For some reason I expected grog to be a much older term. Plus it helps answer a question that has always plagued me. How did sailors get anything done if they drank spirits all the time? 

Of course, the origin raised another question. What the heck is a grogram cloak? From the World English Dictionary citation on Dictionary.com:

n.  - a coarse fabric of silk, wool, or silk mixed with wool or mohair, often stiffened with gum, formerly used for clothing.

I’d love to know why the fabric was stiffened with gum. To give a starched like effect? To make it waterproof? So far, I’ve not found any answers, so if you know – please share! I’m looking forward to having one of my characters wear a grogram cloak in a future novel.

Interestingly, the definition of grog very similar to wikipedia’s description of a hot toddy

Let’s see...should I change it?

Several sailors still had a hard time keeping their hot toddies in their bellies and their feet underneath them when the Amanda pitched without warning.

No definitely not. It might be the same drink, but the men of the Amanda wouldn’t be caught dead drinking hot toddies!

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