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Grog is a mixture of rum and water served daily aboard ships in the Royal Navy. The daily grog ration was of highest importance to the sailors under Jack Aubrey's command. It might be stopped as a punishment for lesser crimes or increased as a reward for services above the call of duty. To Dr. Maturin's dismay it was an immemorial custom of the service until 1970 in the Royal Navy.



As the Royal Navy began exploring more of the oceans the issue of liquid for drinking became more and more an issue. Most ships carried casks of beer and water in the 1650's, with the sailors' daily beer ration approximately a gallon each. Longer voyages required more and more space to stow beer and water that tended to spoil quickly as algae grew in the casks. To make the water taste better, sailors would often mix their beer and water rations together.

The capture of Jamaica by Vice Admiral William Penn in 1655 also led to the availability of rum and, in 1731, a half-pint of undiluted rum was considered equal to the gallon ration of beer for sailors at sea in the West Indies. Regulations were later changed to allow the rum ration in all ships, though beer was still normally served in waters close to England.[1] The men might also be served wine or other spirits if rum were unavailable. For example, wine was usually issued in the Mediterranean.

Credit for the invention of grog is given to Vice Admiral Edward Vernon who felt the undisciplined and drunken nature of his crew was the direct result of the rum ration. In August of 1740, he ordered the rum to be mixed with water on deck in the presence of the lieutenant of the watch; some sources suggest that a little sugar was added to make the mixture more palatable. Later, to counter the affects of scurvy on the crews, lime or lemon juice was also added to the mixture. Vernon's nickname, "Old Grog", may have come from this practice, though other legends suggest it derived from the grogram cloak he wore. The word "grog" is recorded in use as Jamaican slang years before Vernon developed the practice of diluting the rum.

Mixing grog

Admiral Vernon's mixture was simply one quart of water to a half pint of rum, a four to one ratio. Some admirals mixed a three to one ratio and Admiral Keith issued grog in a five to one ratio.

In the Canon

When first detailed, the Sophies are said to receive "his half-pint a day, at twice", "[a]t an admixture of four to one."[2]

The recipe aboard HMS Surprise is described in Chapter 3 of The Far Side of the World as "three [parts] water, one of rum, and the due proportions of lemon-juice and sugar."[3]

However, in The Wine-Dark Sea, "a quarter of a pint of Sydney rum" is "publicly diluted with three quarters of a pint of water and lemon-juice", so the exact proportion of juice to water is not wholly consistent[4]. Captain Aubrey, however, sometimes orders defaulters to have six water grog as a minor punishment, partly, perhaps, because, "he (like everybody else aboard) still privately believed that grog, doubly diluted to a thin, unpalatable wash, was far less intoxicating."[5]


  1. Q.v., O'Brian, Patrick. The Letter of Marque. (c)1988 by Patrick O'Brian. First American Edition, 1990. W.W. Norton & Company, Inc. New York, NY: pp. 61, 180
  2. O'Brian, Patrick. Master and Commander. (c) 1969 by Patrick O'Brian. J. B. Lippincott Company, Philadelphia and New York, First Edition: p. 287
  3. O'Brian, Patrick. The Far Side of the World. New York: W. W. Norton, 1994, p. 103. See also, 'Master and Commander' p. 305 "an admixture of three to one"
  4. O'Brian, Patrick, The Wine-Dark Sea (p.27)
  5. O'Brian, Patrick. The Far Side of the World. New York: W. W. Norton, 1994, p. 112
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