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  • Writer's pictureBamboo Sam

Navy Grog

Don the Beachcomber's ode to the naval tot.

Sailor's getting their daily tot

As I write this it is July 31, 2020. Fifty years ago today (July 31, 1970) is known as "Black Tot Day". It was the last day the British Royal Navy issued sailors their daily rum ration. This ration, which was known as the daily "Tot" had begun in 1655 and was as much a part of naval tradition as saltwater. While the Tot began as a half-pint of rum per day it had been steadily diluted and decreased over the years. By 1740 it was ordered to be mixed 4:1 with water and split into two servings (morning & evening) in order to reduce drunkenness. In 1824 it was reduced to 1/4 pint and halved again to 1/8 pint in 1850.

In 1969 the Admiralty Board issued the following statement, "The Admiralty Board concludes that the rum issue is no longer compatible with the high standards of efficiency required now that the individual's tasks in ships are concerned with complex, and often delicate, machinery and systems on the correct functioning of which people's lives may depend" The following year saw the "Great Rum Debate" in the House of Commons and it was determined that the daily Tot would be discontinued. They did get an extra can of beer added to their daily rations but, needless to say, it wasn't a happy day at sea.

Jump to the 1940's and you've got Don the Beachcomber serving up his glorious Rum Rhapsodies in Hollywood. Now if you think about those drinks their mostly extravagant, decidedly un-macho affairs that didn't sit well with the men doing their best to be the macho American male of the 1940's. So, in 1941 Don introduces the Navy Grog to his menu. Anything that maintains a level of commitment and tradition that spans more than 300 years is worth remembering. And few things seem more macho in a (pre) Tiki bar than naval sailors. Don now had a manly drink that had both a simple presentation, high alcohol content, and macho pedigree to appeal to those a bit uncomfortable ordering something with a 2 foot long straw and an orchid garnish.

Make no mistake about it, Don's Navy Grog is strong. So much so that he imposed a two drink limit similar to that of the Zombie. Trader Vic made his own version which adds a bit of pimento dram but keeps the 3 ounces of rum. In fact, a bartender from Trader Vic's (now closed) Beverly Hills location was called to court to testify to its strength in the trial of Phil Spector in the murder of Lana Clarkson as Phil had a few on the night in question.

Murder, mayhem, and the overproduction of the Beatles aside, The Navy Grog is a true Tiki classic. I think of as part of the Tiki-trinity along with the Mai-tai and the Zombie. While it may as old as the reasons it was created, we still seem to find reasons to want a strong shot of rum in ye olde blood stream in 2020. So raise a glass on the 50th anniversary of Black Tot Day. ...and don't worry, I'm sure we'll find another reason to do it again tomorrow!

Navy Grog (1941)

Don's Navy Grog (1941)

Source -The Grog Log, Jeff "Beachbum" Berry

  • 3/4 ounce fresh lime juice

  • 3/4 ounce white grapefruit juice*

  • 1 ounce honey syrup

  • 3/4 ounce club soda*

  • 1 ounce light rum

  • 1 ounce dark Jamaican rum

  • 1 ounce Demerara rum

Add everything to a mixer tin with crushed ice. Flash blend in a spindle mixer. Gated pour into a double old fashioned glass. Garnish is a a lime wedge and mint sprig. Traditionally served with an ice cone which is generally a pain in the butt which requires pre-making crushed ice into a cone shape (with straw hole in the center) for each drink. These are then re-frozen for 2-3 hours. They do look cool but I don't have the foresight to make them in advance of wanting this particular drink or the freezer space to just keep them on hand.

*Bamboo Sam's customizations: Rum wise I'm using Cruzan white, Blackwell Jamaican, and El Dorado 5 year. I really need to make a honey syrup page, but essentially it's a 1:1 mix of honey to hot water. After the honey is suspended in the water it will keep in the refrigerator for a few weeks like any simple syrup. Lastly, do your best to get white grapefruit juice. most grapefruit juice and grapefruits found in supermarkets are of the red or Ruby Red variety nowadays. That was not the case in 1941 as white grapefruit was the norm. Ruby reds are much sweeter and you really want the acidity of the white grapefruit in Don's drinks.

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