Purl or wormwood ale is an English drink. It was originally made by infusing ale with the tops of various species of Artemisia ("wormwood"),especially those of Artemisia maritima , "sea wormwood", which grows in coastal salt marsh and bears the alternative English common name of "old woman" ("old man" being a common name of the related A. abrotanum ). Other purgative or bitter herbs such as orange peel or senna might also be used. The drink was commonly drunk in the early hours of the morning at which time it was popular with labourers.
By the middle of the 19th century, wormwood had been forgotten and the recipe was to mull ale instead with gin, sugar and spices such as ginger. It was sold by purl-men from purl-boats on the Thames who were licensed by the Watermen's Hall.The drink ceased to be popular by the end of the 19th century, being replaced by beer, especially the variety known to the English as bitter.
Purl-royal was a similar concoction made using wine in place of ale or beer.
The English took the drink with them to North America and a purl house was opened in New York, where rich punches and possets were popular.
Shakespeare mentions purl in his play, The Merry Wives of Windsor .Samuel Pepys recorded in his diary entry for February 19, 1660, "Thence forth to Mr Harper's to drink a draft of purle, whither by appointment Monsieur L'Impertinent". On March 21, 1662, he writes, "Thence to Westminster Hall ... Here I met with Chetwind, Parry, and several others, and went to a little house behind the Lords' house to drink some wormwood ale, which doubtless was a bawdy house, the mistress of the house having the look and dress".
Two centuries later, purl appeared in Charles Dickens's The Old Curiosity Shop , published in 1840–1841. The character Dick Swiveller makes a show of kindness by bringing from a public house a boy "who bore in one hand a plate of bread and beef, and in the other a great pot, filled with some very fragrant compound, which sent forth a grateful steam, and was indeed choice purl, made after a particular recipe which Mr Swiveller had imparted to the landlord, at a period when he was deep in his books and desirous to conciliate his friendship." And, in the next chapter: "Mr. Swiveller emerged from the house; and feeling that he had by this time taken quite as much to drink as promised to be good for his constitution (purl being a rather strong and heady compound)...."
Dickens described the final period of the drink in his last novel, Our Mutual Friend :
For the rest, both the tap and parlour of the Six Jolly Fellowship-Porters gave upon the river, and had red curtains matching the noses of the regular customers, and were provided with comfortable fireside tin utensils, like models of sugar-loaf hats, made in that shape that they might, with their pointed ends, seek out for themselves glowing nooks in the depths of the red coals, when they mulled your ale, or heated for you those delectable drinks, Purl, Flip, and Dog's Nose. The first of these humming compounds was a speciality of the Porters, which, through an inscription on its door-posts, gently appealed to your feelings as, "The Early Purl House". For, it would seem that Purl must always be taken early; though whether for any more distinctly stomachic reason than that, as the early bird catches the worm, so the early purl catches the customer, cannot here be resolved.
Samuel Pepys was an English diarist and naval administrator. He served as administrator of the Royal Navy and Member of Parliament and is most famous for the diary he kept for a decade. Pepys had no maritime experience, but he rose to be the Chief Secretary to the Admiralty under both King Charles II and King James II through patronage, diligence, and his talent for administration. His influence and reforms at the Admiralty were important in the early professionalisation of the Royal Navy.
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Thujone is a ketone and a monoterpene that occurs predominantly in two diastereomeric (epimeric) forms: (−)-α-thujone and (+)-β-thujone.
Herbsaint is a brand name of anise-flavored liqueur originally created as an absinthe-substitute in New Orleans, Louisiana in 1934, and currently produced by the Sazerac Company.
Samuel Hartlib or Hartlieb was a Royal Prussian born, English educational and agricultural reformer of German-Polish origin who settled, married and died in England. He was a son of George Hartlib, a Pole, and Elizabeth Langthon, a daughter of a rich English merchant. Hartlib was a noted promoter and writer in fields that included science, medicine, agriculture, politics and education. He was a contemporary of Robert Boyle, whom he knew well, and a neighbour of Samuel Pepys in Axe Yard, London, in the early 1660s. He studied briefly at the University of Cambridge upon arriving in England.
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Edward Montagu, 1st Earl of Sandwich, KG PC FRS JP was an English military officer, politician and diplomat, who fought for the Parliamentarian army during the First English Civil War and was an MP at various times between 1645 and 1660. A loyal supporter of Oliver Cromwell, he was a member of the English Council of State from 1653 to 1659 and General at sea from 1656 to 1660. Following Cromwell's death in 1658, he switched allegiance and played an important role in the Restoration of Charles II in May 1660.
Artemisia absinthium is a species of Artemisia, native to temperate regions of Eurasia and North Africa, and widely naturalized in Canada and the northern United States. It is grown as an ornamental plant and is used as an ingredient in the spirit absinthe and some other alcoholic beverages.
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Génépi or génépy or genepì is a traditional herbal liqueur or aperitif popularized in the Alpine regions of Europe. Genepi also refers to alpine plants of the genus Artemisia that provide the liqueur's flavor and color, and the French Savoy region adjacent to the Aosta Valley, where the Artemisia genepi plants grow and where the beverage is commonly produced.
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Carey or Cary Dillon, 5th Earl of Roscommon, PC (Ire) (1627–1689) was an Irish nobleman and professional soldier of the seventeenth century. He held several court offices under King Charles II and his successor King James II. After the Glorious Revolution he joined the Williamite opposition to James and was in consequence attainted as a traitor by James II's Irish Parliament in 1689. In that year he fought at the Siege of Carrickfergus shortly before his death in November of that year.
Burton ale is a type of strong ale which is dark and sweet. It is named after the brewing town of Burton-on-Trent.
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Richard 'Dick' Swiveller is a fictional character in the 1841 novel The Old Curiosity Shop by Charles Dickens. Initially a comical accessory to the antagonists in the novel, he undergoes a transformation, becoming a key helpmate bridging the depiction of the main characters that are either mostly villainous or goodly in nature.