AskDefine | Define grog

Dictionary Definition

grog n : rum cut with water

User Contributed Dictionary




  1. an alcoholic beverage made with rum and water, especially that once issued to sailors of the Royal Navy
  2. Any alcoholic beverage
  3. A type of pre-fired clay that has been ground and screened to a specific particle size, also called firesand

Derived terms


an alcoholic beverage made with rum and water
Any alcoholic beverage
A type of pre-fired clay


Extensive Definition

The word grog may refer to a variety of alcoholic beverages. The word originally referred to a drink made with water or "small beer" (a weak beer) and rum, which was introduced into the Royal Navy by British Vice Admiral Edward Vernon on 21 August, 1740. Modern versions of the drink are often made with hot or boiling water, and sometimes include lemon juice, lime juice, cinnamon or sugar to improve the taste. Rum with water, sugar and nutmeg was known as bumboo and was more popular with pirates and merchantmen.
By contrast, in Australia and New Zealand, the word has come to mean any alcoholic drink.
In Sweden and some subcultures within the English-speaking world, grog is a common description of drinks not made to a recipe, but by mixing various kinds of alcohol and/or soda, fruit juice or similar ingredients.
Grog has also been used as a metaphoric term for a person's vices, as in the old Irish song "All for Me Grog".

Origin and history

Humans discovered long ago that they could not drink sea water, and required significant quantities of fresh water on extended voyages. Since they were unable to desalinate sea water, fresh water was taken on board in casks but quickly developed algae and became slimy. Stagnant water was sweetened with beer or wine to make it palatable which involved more casks and was subject to spoilage. As longer voyages became more common, the task of stowage became more and more difficult and the sailors' then-daily ration of a gallon of beer began to add up.
Following Britain's conquest of Jamaica in 1655, a half pint or "2 gills" of rum gradually replaced beer and brandy as the drink of choice. Given to the sailor straight, this caused additional problems, as some sailors would save up the rum rations for several days, then drink them all at once. Due to the subsequent illness and disciplinary problems, the rum was mixed with water. This both diluted its effects, and delayed its spoilage. A half pint, one cup, of rum mixed with one quart of water and issued in two servings before noon and after the end of the working day became part of the official regulations of the Royal Navy in 1756 and lasted for more than two centuries. This gives a ratio of 4:1.
Citrus juice (usually lime or lemon juice) was added to the recipe to cut down on the water's foulness. Although they did not know the reason at the time, Admiral Edward Vernon's sailors were healthier than the rest of the navy, due to the daily doses of vitamin C that prevented disease (mainly scurvy). This custom, in time, got the British the nickname limeys for the limes they consumed.
It is very widely believed that the name "grog" came from the nickname of Admiral Edward "Old Grog" Vernon, but since the word appears in a book written by Daniel Defoe in 1718, well before Admiral Vernon's West Indian career began, and 22 years before his famous order to dilute the rum ration, this cannot be so. Significantly, it is in the 1718 book (The Family Instructor, Part II) a little former slave boy, Toby, from Barbados, who is the character using the word, stating that "the black mans" in the West Indies "make the sugar, make the grog, much great work, much weary work all day long." Since Defoe had trading interests which gave him connections at the great seaports of the day, it is likely that he had heard the word used by similar visitors to Britain from the West Indies. At any rate, the word seems to definitely have entered English from the West Indies - it may have an African origin. It is likely, therefore, that "Old Grog"'s nickname came from the drink, rather than from his cloak and that his family put about the story about the grogram cloak to cover up this minor shame. However, while the word "grog" referring to rum antedates Vernon's rations, the use of the word to refer to diluted rum may post-date him.
The practice of serving grog twice a day was carried over into the Continental Navy and the U. S. Navy. Robert Smith, then Secretary of the Navy, experimented with substituting native rye whiskey for the imported rum concoction. Finding the American sailors preferred it, he made the change permanent. It is said his sailors followed the practice of their British antecedents and took to calling it "Bob Smith" instead of grog.
Although the American Navy ended the rum ration on September 1, 1862, the ration continued in the Royal Navy. The temperance movements of the late 19th century began to change the attitude toward drink and the days of grog slowly came to an end. In 1850 the size of the tot was halved to a quarter of a pint per day. The issue of grog to Officers ended in 1881, and to Warrant Officers in 1918. On January 28, 1970 the "Great Rum Debate" took place in the House of Commons, and on July 31, 1970 the last pipe of "Up Spirits" in the Royal Navy was heard and is referred today as "Black Tot Day". (Although all ratings received an allowance of an extra can of beer each day as compensation.)
Until the grog ration was discontinued in 1970, Navy rum was 95.5 proof, or 47.75% alcohol; the usual ration was an eighth of a pint, diluted 2:1 with water (3:1 until World War II). Extra rum rations were provided for special celebrations, like Trafalgar Day, and sailors might share their ration with the cook or with a messmate celebrating a birthday.
Over time the distribution of the rum ration became encrusted with elaborate ritual. At 11am the boatswain’s mate piped 'Up spirits,' the signal for the petty officer of the day to climb to the quarterdeck and collect (1) the keys to the spirit room from an officer, (2) the ship's cooper, and (3) a detachment of Royal Marines. In procession, they unlocked the door of the spirit room, and witnessed the pumping into a keg of one eighth pint of rum for every rating and petty officer on the ship aged 20 or more and not under punishment. Two marines lifted the keg to the deck, standing guard while a file of cooks from the petty officers' messes held out their jugs. The sergeant of marines poured the ration under direction of the chief steward, who announced the number of drinking men present in each petty officer's mess. The rest of the rum was mixed in a tub with two parts water, becoming the grog provided to the ratings.
At noon the boatswain's mate piped "Muster for rum", and the cooks from each mess presented with tin buckets. The sergeant of marines ladled out the authorized number of “tots” (half-pints) supervised by the petty officer of the day. The few tots of grog remaining in the tub ('plushers') were poured into the drains (“scuppers”) visibly running into the sea.
The petty officers were served first, and entitled to take their rum undiluted. The ratings drank their grog in one long gulp when they finished their work around noon.
In the early stages of British settlement in Australia, the word grog entered common usage, to describe diluted, adulterated and sub-standard rum, obtainable from sly-grog shops. In the early decades of the Australian colonies such beverages were often the only alcohol available to the working class. Eventually in Australia, and New Zealand, the word grog came to be used as a slang term for any alcoholic beverage.
In the modern civilian world, a drink that is somewhat similar to grog is the fashionable mojito. Starting with the basic recipe for "navy grog" and adding mint plus substituting carbonated water in lieu of plain water creates a basic mojito. (However, the details of an upscale mojito can be more complex.)
Honoring the 18th Century British Army regimental mess and grog’s historical significance in the military, the United States Navy, United States Air Force, and United States Army carry on a tradition at its formal dining in ceremonies whereby those in attendance who are observed to violate formal etiquette are "punished" by being sent to “the grog” and publicly drink from it in front of the attendees. The grog usually consists of various alcoholic beverages mixed together, unappealing to the taste, and contained in a toilet bowl. A non-alcoholic variety of the grog is also typically available for those in attendance who do not consume alcohol and can contain anything from hot sauce to mayonnaise intended to make it unappealing to the taste as well. Attendees may also be singled out and sent to "the grog" for some good-natured ribbing and teasing.
Various Recipes
While many claim to make a traditional Navy grog recipe, there are only several accepted forms. The Royal Navy's grog recipe includes lemon juice, water, rum, and cinnamon. A commonly-found recipe in the Caribbean includes water, light rum, grapefruit juice, orange juice, pineapple juice, cinnamon, and honey. In the Far East, the Japanese Navy is rumored to concoct a much stronger variant primarily from sake and wasabi.


  • Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase & Fable, Millennium Edition, revised by Adrian Room, 2001
  • Constance Lathrop, "Grog," U. S. Naval Institute Proceedings, Mar 1935, pp. 377-380; letter, Robert Smith to Keith Spence, 11 November 1808, RG 45 (M209, Vol. 9), DNA
  • Tyrone G. Martin, "Bob Smith," Encyclopedia of the War of 1812, New York: Garland Publishing Co., 1998
  • James Pack, Nelson's Blood: The Story of Naval Rum Naval Institute Press, 1982
  • Christopher McKee, Sober Men and True: Sailor Lives in the Royal Navy 1900-45, Harvard, 2003
  • The Life and Strange Surprising Adventures of Daniel Defoe, Richard West, London, 1998, p. 227.
  • Computer games: The Secret of Monkey Island, Monkey Island 2: LeChuck's Revenge and The Curse of Monkey Island by LucasArts.
grog in Bulgarian: Грог
grog in Czech: Grog
grog in German: Grog
grog in Spanish: Grog
grog in French: Grog
grog in Italian: Grog
grog in Dutch: Grog
grog in Japanese: グロッグ
grog in Low German: Grog
grog in Polish: Grog
grog in Russian: Грог
grog in Slovak: Grog
grog in Finnish: Grogi
grog in Swedish: Grogg
grog in Ukrainian: Грог

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

John Barleycorn, alcohol, alcoholic beverage, alcoholic drink, aqua vitae, ardent spirits, beverage, booze, brew, drink, firewater, hard liquor, hooch, inebriant, intoxicant, intoxicating liquor, juice, liquor, little brown jug, potable, potation, punch bowl, rum, schnapps, social lubricant, spirits, strong drink, strong waters, the Demon Rum, the bottle, the cup, the flowing bowl, the luscious liquor, the ruddy cup, tipple, toxicant, water of life
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