Social Life in Queen Anne's Reign, Volume I.

Ashton, John


CHAPTER XVI: Food (Liquid)

CHAPTER XVI: Food (Liquid)


BEER always has been the alcoholic liquor most largely consumed in England, and, among the poorer and lower middle classes, it was so in Anne's reign; but it was looked down upon, and despised, by the upper classes. It was of different qualities, from the 'penny Nipperkin of Molassas Ale' [1]  to 'a pint of Ale cost me fivepence.' [2]  Not only were there the local brewers in London, but the excellence of ' right Darby' and 'Sleeford or Lincolnshire' ales was such that these breweries were represented. ' Right North Country Pale Ale ready bottled at 4s. per dozen' was also to be had; and pale ale was exported. 'Any Merchant that has occasion for Pale Ale and Stout, to send to the West Indies, may at any time be supplied at the Fountain Brewhouse, by the Hermitage, with Beer for Shipping at reasonable rates.' Dantzic Spruce was also imported. Beer was taxed then, as now, by the barrel. 'Yesterday the Commons, in a Committee of Ways and Means, resolved, That an additional duty of 3d. per barrel be laid upon all beer and ale above 6s. per barrel; and under 6s., 1d.; vinegar 9d.; cyder per hogshead 5d.; strong waters mead and matheglin 1d. per gallon.' [3] 

But, for well-to-do people, wine was the drink, and the variety was nearly as great as in our time. It was a harddrinking age, and the habit was universal. 'I look'd to have


found you with your Head ake and your morning Qualms' [4]  must have been a not unusual salutation; but it was not done for the same reason as by those gentlemen mentioned in the (No. 58), 'who drink vast quantities of ale and October to encourage our manufactures; and another who takes his three bottles of French claret every night because it brings a great custom to the Crown.'

Nightly on bended knees, the musty Putt, Still Saints the Spigot, and Adores the Butt; With fervent Zeal the flowing Liquor plies But Damns the Moderate Bottel . . . for its size.

These evening potations rendered a morning's draught generally necessary; but, after that, drinking was again postponed till the day's work was over. The modern system of 'nipping' did obtain to a slight degree, but it was reprehended. 'Whereas Mr. Bickerstaff, by a letter bearing date this twenty fourth of February, has received information that there are in and about the a sort of people commonly known by the name of WHETTERS, who drink themselves into an intermediate state of being neither drunk nor sober before the hours of Exchange, or business; and in that condition buy and sell stocks, discount notes, and do many other acts of well disposed citizens; this is to give notice, that from this day forward no WHETTER shall be able to give or endorse any note, or execute any other point of Commerce, after the third half pint, before the hour of one; and whoever shall transact any matter or matters with a WHETTER, not being himself of that order, shall be conducted to Moorfields [5]  upon the first application of his next of kin.' [6] 

The war with France made the French wines somewhat scarcer than they would otherwise have been, and opened a trade for wines from other countries; still the number of prizes taken, laden with clarets, etc., and the efforts of smugglers, kept the market pretty well supplied. The wines seem to have been good, although the Spanish and Portuguese wines were fortified with ' Stum,' a fact well known, especially


as to its effects: 'get drunk with Stum'd wine.' [7]  The French wines were very numerous-some even unknown to us by their names-comprising Champagne, Burgundy, Frontiniac, Muscat, Anjou, Bouvrie (? Vouvray), Bayonne, Obrian (Hautbrion), Pontack, Claret, Bomas (? Pomard), High Priniac (Preignac), La Fitt, Margouze (Margeaux), La Tour, Graves, Cahorze, Blacart, Monson, Hermitage, Langoon, Bosmes (? Beaumes), Macco (? Macon), Languedoc, and Cap Breton clarets. Their prices were various: ordinary clarets from the wood 4s. to 6s. per gallon; good bottled clarets from 3s. or 4s. to 10s. a bottle. Champagne came over in baskets or hampers containing ten dozen to two hundred bottles per basket, and was sold retail about 8s. a bottle. Good Burgundy cost 7s. a bottle, but these prices varied, as they do now, with the quality.

French wines, however, were not universal favourites. 'A Bottle or two of good solid Edifying Port, at honest George's, made a Night chearful, and threw off Reserve. But this plaguy French Claret will not only Cost us more Money, but do us less Good,' growls . [8]  Being at war with France, it was considered patriotic not to drink French wine, and Port became popular. Its introduction was owing to the treaty with Portugal in , called the Methuen Treaty, from the name of our minister at Lisbon. It is famed as being the shortest treaty known, consisting of only two clauses, one that the Portuguese should take British cloths, and the other that Portuguese wines should be admitted here at one third less duty than the French wines paid. Red Viana seems to have been frequently substituted for port, and it was sold at about 5s. a gallon. Then there were White Viana, Lisbon, Passada, Annadea, Bende Carlo (Beni Carlos), Barrabar, Carcavella, and Rvia, whilst the Spanish wines were Sherry, Malaga, Tent, Saragusa, Villa Nova, Barcelona, Alicant, Re Gallicia, Sallo or Mattero, and White Muscadine. There were Florence wines, which came over in rush-covered flasks with oil in the neck of the flasks-Chiante, Multapulchana (? Montepulciano), Madeira, Canary, Tockay from Hungary, and also (verily, there is very little new under the sun) Carlowitz, from the


same country; there were wines from Neuchatel, and a wine I cannot class, called Mount Allaguer. We hear very little of Rhenish wines. In 'Tunbridge Walks' an uncomplimentary reference is made, ; but fine old hock was selling in I713 at 26s. a dozen, including bottles, or new Rhenish might be had for 1s. 8d. a quart, or 6s. a gallon. It is hardly worth going into the prices of these miscellaneous wines. One advertisement will be sufficient. 'Advertisement to Private Families of 33 Dozen Bottles of excellent rich Palm Canary Wine, a Flower; also 45 Dozen of Curious Red Zant, a most noble and scarce Wine, no Champaign or Burgundy drinks finer, and likewise 60 Dozen of Choice Florence Wine, true Flavour and Colour, all perfect Neat, and as good as ever was tasted, reserv'd by a Gentleman for his own drinking, but oblig'd to sell them: The Palm Wine at 30s. a Dozen, the Zant and Florence each 36s. Bottles and all (none less than 4 Bottles) which is but at the rate of 2s. 3d. a Quart for the Palm Wine, and 2s. 9d. for the Zant and Florence, tho' would fetch more if the Owner could Keep them, the like being scarcely to be had in Town, at leastwise not under 3s. a Quart the first, and 3s. 6d. the last, if for that, and will be dearer.'

Retailers had to take out a licence to sell wine; and of course there were customs duties. says, Dec. 4, : ' Yesterday the Commons, in a Committee upon the Supply, resolved, nemine contradicente, that 1s. per gallon be laid upon all Wines over and above the present Customs, to be paid by the retailer ;' but, afterwards, he writes, Jan. 15, , that the Commons rejected the bill for 1s. per gallon upon wines. On March 20, , the Queen gave her royal assent to an Act 'for a further duty on low Wines' ; and, in , French wines paid a duty of 4s. 6d. per gallon !

The wine merchants of the time were an enterprising firm named Brooke & Hellier (mentioned in the more than once), who had several branch establishments in various parts of London, even brought wine by road from Bristol, and one year paid as much as 25,000£. customs duties; but they came to grief in , and dissolved partnership. Brooke afterwards set up in business by himself.

There was Batavian arrack for those that liked it, usquebaugh (both green and golden), and brandy-especially Nants brandy-beloved of the poor in penny drams. Not but what there were other brandies-Gaudarella, Viana or Fial (? Fayal), Strasburg, Spanish, and even our familiar old friend British brandy. The average retail price of 'right Nants' seems to have been about 12s. per gallon, but Spanish could be got 2s. 6d. per gallon cheaper. In the customs duty on brandy was 6s. 8d. per gallon; freight and leakage came to 2s. 6d.; so that it did not leave much profit after paying for the brandy.

There were liqueurs and cordials; and they must have been very diversified, for the name of the 'Still room' was not then an empty sound; and scandal just whispered that it was sometimes possible that the dear creatures tasted their own manufactures. Are we to believe the following sketch ? 'It would make a Man smile to behold her Figure in a front Box, where her twinkling Eyes, by her Afternoon's Drams of Ratifee and cold Tea, sparkle more than her Pendants... Her Closet is always as well stor'd with Juleps, Restoratives, and Strong Waters, as an Apothecary's Shop, or a Distiller's Laboratory; and is herself so notable a Housewife in the Art of preparing them that she has a larger Collection of Chemical Receipts than a Dutch Mountebank . . . As soon as she rises, she must have a Salutary Dram to keep her Stomach from the Cholick; a Whet before she eats, to procure Appetite; after eating, a plentiful Dose for Concoction; and to be sure a Bottle of Brandy under her Bed side for fear of fainting in the Night.' [9] 

These cordials were not always palatable, if we can believe 's description of which Sir Roger 'always drank before he went abroad.' There were the ' Ratafia of Apricocks,' the ' Fenouillette of Rhe,' 'Millefleurs,' 'Orangiat,' 'Burgamot,' 'Pesicot,' and citron or cithern water, with many others. Elder and other home-made wines were in use. Let us see how they were appreciated. 'Her female Ancestors have always been fam'd for good Housewifry, one of whom is made immortal,


by giving her Name to an Eye Water and two sorts of Puddings. I cannot undertake to recite all her Medicinal Preparations; as Salves, Sere cloths, Powders, Confects, Cordials, Ratifia, Persico, Orange Flower, and Cherry Brandy, together with innumerable sorts of Simple Waters. But there is nothing I lay so much to Heart, as that detestable Catalogue of Counterfeit Wines, which derive their Names from the Fruits, Herbs or trees of whose Juices they are chiefly compounded: They are loathsome to the taste and pernicious to the health; and as they seldom survive the Year, and then are thrown away, under a false Pretence of Frugality, I may affirm they stand me in more than if I entertain'd all our Visiters with the best Burgundy and Champaign.' [10] 

Punch had begun to make its appearance, but it was a simple liquor to what afterwards became known by that name. Here is a receipt given by a noted brandy merchant of the time: 'Major Bird's Receipt to make Punch of his Brandy. Take 1 Quart of his Brandy, and it will bear 2 Quarts and a Pint of Spring Water; if you drink it very strong, then 2 Quarts of Water to a Quart of Brandy, with 6 or 8 Lisbon Lemmons, and half a Pound of fine Loaf Sugar: Then you will find it to have a curious fine scent and flavour, and Drink and Taste as clean as Burgundy Wine.'

There was also an intoxicating liquor, still in limited use, called 'Brunswick Mum,' whose price was '9s. the dozen without doors, and 10s. within.' The name of this compound is supposed to be derived from its power of making men speechlessly drunk.

The clamorous crowd is hush'd with mugs of mum, Till all, turn'd equal, send a general hum.

Bottled cyder, too, could be obtained at 6s. per dozen.

The antidote to all these intoxicants was to be found in 'The Essence of Prunes, Chymically prepar'd by a Son of Monsieur Rochefort, a Sworn Chymist of France. It gives English Spirits the smell and taste of Nantz Brandy; it prevents any Liquor from intoxicating the Brain.'

We must not forget, however, that tea, coffee, and chocolate were in much demand, and that both the coffee and


chocolate houses really supplied these beverages as their staple article. Tea was more of a home drink, and was very dear, reckoning the different values of money. Perhaps there were greater fluctuations in its price than in any other article of food. Black tea varied in from 12S. to 16s. per 1b.; in , 14s. to 16s.; in , which seems to have been an exceptionally dear year, 16s., 20s., 22s., 24s., 30s., and 32s.; in , it was from 14s. to 28s.; and in , 12s. to 28s. Green tea in was 13s. 6d. ; in , 20s., 22s., 26s.; in , 10s. to 15s.; and in , 10s. to 16s. The difference between old and new is given once. The new tea is 14s., and the old 12s. and 10s.

The margins in price are not only accounted for by the difference in age, but it was well known that old leaves were redried, and used in the cheaper sorts; indeed, there is a very curious advertisement in the advertising portion of the , Aug. 26, : 'Bohea Tea, made of the same Materials that Foreign Bohea is made of, 16s. a Pound. Sold by R. Fary only, at the Bell in Grace Church Street, Druggist. Note. The Natural Pecko Tea will remain, after Infusion, of a light grey Colour. All other Bohea Tea, tho' there be White in it, will Change Colour, and is artificial.'

writes, Dec. 16, : 'The Commons in a Committee of wayes and means, resolved to double the duties on Coffee, Tea, and Chocolate.'

The first noteworthy incident in the price of coffee in this reign is an advertisement. [11]  'Whereas Coffee was formerly sold at 2s. 6d. per pound, and is now already amounted to betwixt 6s. and 7s. per pound, the Majority of the Retailers have thought it reasonable to request their Customers to pay 3 half pence per Dish, and do assure that no person that sells Coffee for 1d. a Dish can make good Coffee.' It is rather interesting to watch the fluctuations in price. In , from 6s. to 6s. 8d. per 1b.; in , from 7s. it fell to 5s. 10d. and 5s. 4d.; in it rose, either owing to speculation, or a failure in the crop, to 8s. 4d., 10s., and 11s. 6d., which was the highest price, when it fell to 9s. 10d. and 9s. In it still further fell-7s. 4d. and 6s. 8d.; and in it was 5s. 8d.

Attention was paid to its manufacture, for we find that 'Thomas Burges, Druggist, removed from Snow hill to the Blew Anchor in , near Serjeants Inn, sells the best of Coffee roasted after a new way, having a better flavour, and is a much sweeter way than the common method of roasting Coffee.'

As tea came into favour, chocolate-drinking fell into disuse, although it was generally taken as a drink the first thing in the morning, before taking tea and toast. It was of two kinds, Caracas or Caraco, and Martineco; and the former was the most esteemed. It was roasted and ground, and either sold plain or mixed with sugar. Its usual price was 3s. per lb. for the one, and 2s. 6d. for the other. Early in , a man advertised a machine of his invention, for making chocolate of a far superior quality, at least 1s. per 1b. under the then prices; and, as his advertisements are somewhat curious, an example is given: 'To the Nobility and Gentry. Whereas the Author of the new Invention for making Chocolate, hath given a general Satisfaction both for its fineness, goodness and Cheapness, to all those that ever yet drank of the same, besides the Satisfaction all persons have of its being cleanly made, upon sight of the Invention, which some Malicious persons, the better to impose upon the World to vend their foul broken Nuts does imitate; but for the working part are as Ignorant as a Natural Bull. But the Author of this Invention thinks himself oblig'd to declare to the World, after 10 Years improving the same with great charge and labour, as many honourable persons in London can testifie; and if any person can make it appear, that they were the first Inventers of this so great a conveniency, as does no ways exceed 12 Inches, before himself, the Author will lay it by, and Act no more, notwithstanding he is now actually petitioning Her Majesty for a Patten, and, till such time as he shall obtain the same, will continue to make and sell his Chocolate at these Rates following, viz. All Spanish Nut with Vanello at 4s. 8d. a pound, plain 4s. 2d. all Marteneco Nut with Vanello 3s. 8d.-plain 3s. 2d.-both sorts made up with Sugar answerable. If any Chocolate maker, or others, can make it appear he reserves above 8d. in selling a pound


for labour and charges in making, a farther remittance shall be made in the price.' This gentleman subsequently advertised that he sold it at '2d. per Dish liquid-14d. a Quart without doors. Sundays excepted.'

The duty on the nuts was sufficiently high to induce smuggling. 'Last Week 6 Sacks of Cocoa Nuts were seiz'd by a Custom House Officer, being brought up to Town for so many sacks of Beans.' [12] 


[1] London Spy.

[2] Journal to Stella, Nov. 29, 1710.

[3] Luttrell's Diary, Jan. 24, 1710.

[4] The Virtuoso.

[5] Bedlam.

[6] Tatler, 138.

[7] Shadwell's Epsom Wells.

[8] Spectator, No. 43.

[9] Adam and Eve Stript of their Furbelows.

[10] Spectator, 328.

[11] Postman, April 27/30, 1706.

[12] London Post, April 14/17, 1704.