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The old Rum Flip

By Greg Erchoff

According to Dr. Alexander Hamilton, a  Scottish physician traveling through the British northern colonies in America around 1750, those colonies had become a republic of Rum. The colonial taste for beer & cider was replaced by strong liquors. Rum turns up everywhere – homes, taverns, doctor’s offices, etc. And soon so will the especially popular drink called FLIP*.

Various strong spirits had arrived before rum, but barrels of rum soon after arrived to the colonial port of Boston, Philadelphia and Newport from the West Indies.

Rum was not just a diversion but nutritionally vital to the colonists as they soon learned that a shot of rum or more made a long day of hard work  a little shorter. It also was accepted as a currency in cash-poor colonies. Rums from Barbados, Antigua, Grenada & Jamaica were considered as the finest.

Soon rum became a valuable thing to exchange with the Native Americans for the furs they hunted that were a sign of richness at this time. In the southeast in 1776 ten thousand gallons of Rum was moved in trade with the Native Americans every month!

Tavern account books indicated a preference of rum over all other drinks. One tavern keeper noted in 1774  in North Carolina that of 221 customers some 165 ordered rum by itself,  and another 41 ordered drinks that contain rum.

What did help the consumption of rum were the taverns.  They were tightly regulated, and local officials set the prices of drinks. For this reason, each tavern keeper had to make his tavern more enticing than the neighbouring one. They brought wild animals in, had special shows, but also distinguish themself with unique drinks. One Swedish observer reported that he saw 45 different drinks, and out of these 18 were made of rum.

Rum was often consumed straight or diluted with three parts of water to one of rum to make something similar to sailors Grog or with sugar or even molasses to make a drink call Bombo. But the record shows that in some tavern books they used cinnamon water or clove water, and even mint water.

Rum mixed with a little molasses became Blackstrap.

Beer mixed with rum became a Calibogus and if you add an egg and sugar it will become an Egg Cali.

But probably the most popular American Rum drink was Flip. To make the drink the tavern keeper takes a large pitcher & fills it about two third with strong beer to which some sort of sugar or molasses is added. Then 5 ounces of rum is stirred with a thing call loggerhead (a long piece of iron about three feet long with a bulbous head the shape of a small onion).

It as to be heated and dipped into the rum beer molasses concoction, then it has to be decanted into a smaller flip tumbler about with the capacity of about a gallon. That loggerhead gives the Flip a bitter sort of burned taste.

There used to be as many different versions of the drink as there were taverns. Some replaced the beer with cider; some added an egg to it. One distinct Flip was made from a batch of beaten cream, egg and sugar, then added to the pitcher with other ingredients. But that Rum Flip is quite different from the modern English Flip we know today.

*This information was retrieved from the book from Wayne Curtis, “And a bottle of rum”.

‘The views expressed above are the opinions of the writer and do not necessarily represent the views of WIRSPA Inc.’
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