Cocktails and Sea Power

by Gaz Regan · Wednesday, December 26th, 2012 · Quotes

“The cocktail has been an effective American missionary,” remarked an American naval officer just back from a trip around the world. “In fact, it marks the boundaries of our spheres of influence and is the pioneer of American civilization,” he added, draining his glass and leaning back for one of those talks with which he sometimes entertains his delighted friends when returned from a cruise.

“You know in the Navy we profess a pretty taste in cocktails and some wardroom products will advantageously bear comparison with any made in Washington, Philadelphia or New York. There is a marine officer now of the service in the general staff and the head of the bureau, who in his sea-going days was a treasure for a shipmate. I was with him in the old Quinnebang up the Mediterranean in the early 80s, time of the first Egyptian war. There were three ships on the station, the Lancaster carrying the flag, the Nipsic and our own. The flag officer was strictly temperate and the three captains were total abstinence men, while the line and the staff officers in the three ships were as convivial a company as were ever gathered on any squadron. You can imagine the distress occasioned by a fleet order that the wine mess in the wardrooms must be discontinued and no wine, malt or spirituous liquors were to be allowed except in the medical stores. A drought compared to which that of the Lybian desert was a rainy season fell upon us.

“We were spending much of the time in Alexandria, then occupied by the British forces under General Sir Garnet Wolseley and then menaced by a strong force of Arabia’s army, in the heavy fortress at Kafr Dawr. We were not permitted to go ashore except in uniform, wearing sidearms, and to enter a cafe or even club thus accoutred to drink was not to be thought of. Fortunately, the officer of our marine guard had a doctor’s order for whiskey. His lungs were in a bad way, and the amount of encouragement he received from his shipmates and from the throng of visitors from the other ships to take his medicine cured him. We relieved him of all the duties wc could and he made cocktails nearly all the time that were better than I ever drank. No, not because they were forbidden fruit. I profess to. know by reason of a long and carefully guarded experience what a cocktail may be, and even John Chamberlain himself could not excel him, and no professional compounder of mixed drinks ever had such an art and hand as Chamberlain. The United Service, 1902.

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