Grog and Bumbo



2 oz Pusser’s Rum
4 oz Water
0.5 oz Lime Juice
2 tsp Brown Sugar

Stir all ingredients in mixing glass.
Pour into a collins or rocks glass with a few large ice cubes.
Garnish with a lime wheel.

* * *

Together, they sound like a pair of lesser Hobbits.  Grog and Bumbo are, however, two cornerstones of our drink repertoire.  Both are historically significant, easy as punch to throw together, and willing to please all but the most ardent teetotalers.

After the British conquest of Jamaica, the Admiralty switched its sailors’ daily ration from beer or brandy to rum.  Some 85 years later, Admiral Edward Vernon found straight rum excessive and ordered his sailors’ rations cut with water and lime.  As the lime juice, in the process, prevented scurvy, the drink caught on, and it became known as “Grog” — from Vernon’s nickname, “Old Grog”.

With its basic combination of sweet, sour, strong, weak, Grog is nothing more than a simple punch.  There are no pretensions or complexities here.  It is what it is — a tasty, light drink that’s perfect for summer.  As with many simple punches, your first sips may leave you underwhelmed, especially if you are a frequenter of the cocktail.  Work you’re way through a glass, and you’ll soon see the magic; it’s a wolf in lamb’s clothing, packing more wallop than you’d expect.

Typically, this is a drink that would demand a good shake to properly dissolve the sugar.  My argument against that is that the drink is already substantially diluted.  The ice should be added after mixing and allowed to chill the drink of its own accord — with no shaking or stirring.  Larger ice cubes melt more slowly, so they are in order here.

As for the glassware, either a collins or a rocks glass will get the job done.


2 oz Pusser’s Rum
2 oz Water
0.5 oz Lime Juice
2 tsp Brown Sugar
2 pinches Cinnamon
1 pinch Freshly Ground Nutmeg

Shake all ingredients with ice and strain into a collins or rocks glass with a few large ice cubes.
Garnish with citrus and berries as desired.


I have to confess; the bulk of my knowledge on the subject of pirates was shaped by Disney.  From the theme park ride to the movie, the swashbucklers of the Caribbean leap to mind whenever I think of Bumbo — the flashier, spicier pirate version of Grog.  Yes, pirate Grog — if that alone isn’t enough to excite you to whip up a batch, feel free to don an eye patch while you do.

Unlike the Jack Tars of the Royal Navy, I like to believe that the buccaneers of the day had more… pizazz.  Hence, the spice.  I’m also inclined to believe that pirates wouldn’t have been so keen to cut their rum as much as the Admiralty demanded.  Thus, less water, which allows us the wiggle room to shake this version, ensuring better integration of the spices.

On the subject of spices, if you’re in need, head over to Penzeys Spices.  And, as always, freshly grated nutmeg is the only way to go.

The swashbucklers of the high seas weren’t alone in their use and abuse of Bumbo.  To the political pirates of colonial America, the process of giving handouts in exchange for votes was known as “swilling the planters with bumbo”.  Sometimes, the bumbo was literally bumbo.  Such was the case in 1758, when one enterprising candidate running for the Virginia House of Burgesses treated 391 voters to 160 gallons of rum — or 6.5 cups per person. The candidate’s name was George Washington.

Bumbo (Pirate Grog) on FoodistaBumbo (Pirate Grog)
Grog on FoodistaGrog


8 responses to “Grog and Bumbo

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  4. I figured that if grog made life aboard a ship more manageable that it would surely help me while I ran my sister’s garage sale. And, it is much more pleasant with that sweaty glass of grog sitting next to me.

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  6. I thought the grog was much tastier with lime juice than lemon juice, but here’s an interesting article about the actual effectiveness of lime juice in regard to scurvy:

    Interestingly, the terms “lemon” and “lime” were used interchangeably for many years, confusing regulators and eventually leading to a failure of the existing and effective cure for scurvy.

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