Purl

Last updated
Artemisia maritima, the aromatic (and anthelmintic) herb most frequently used to flavour purl: English common names include sea wormwood and old woman Artemisia-maritima.JPG
Artemisia maritima , the aromatic (and anthelmintic) herb most frequently used to flavour purl: English common names include sea wormwood and old woman

Purl or wormwood ale is an English drink. It was originally made by infusing ale with the tops of various species of Artemisia ("wormwood"), [1] especially those of Artemisia maritima , "sea wormwood", which grows in coastal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 ). [2] 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. [3]

Contents

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. [4] 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. [5]

Purl-royal was a similar concoction made using wine in place of ale or beer. [6]

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. [7]

In fiction

A freshly-mulled pint of Dog's Nose (so called because wet and black), one of the mid-19th century descendants of the original (wormwood) purl, containing London porter, gin, brown sugar and sometimes also nutmeg A pint of 'Dog's Nose'.jpg
A freshly-mulled pint of Dog's Nose (so called because wet and black), one of the mid-19th century descendants of the original (wormwood) purl, containing London porter, gin, brown sugar and sometimes also nutmeg

Shakespeare mentions purl in his play, The Merry Wives of Windsor . [2] 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". [8] 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". [9]

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 : [10]

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.

See also

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Samuel Pepys</span> English diarist and administrator (1633–1703)

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.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Vermouth</span> Alcoholic beverage

Vermouth is an aromatized fortified wine, flavoured with various botanicals and sometimes colored. The modern versions of the beverage were first produced in the mid- to late 18th century in Turin, Italy. While vermouth was traditionally used for medicinal purposes, it was later served as an apéritif, with fashionable cafés in Turin serving it to guests around the clock. In the late 19th century, it became popular with bartenders as a key ingredient for cocktails, such as the martini, the Manhattan, the Rob Roy, and the Negroni. In addition to being consumed as an apéritif or cocktail ingredient, vermouth is sometimes used as an alternative to white wine in cooking.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Thujone</span> Group of four possible stereoisomers found in various plants: a.o., absinthe and mint

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.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Pall Mall, London</span> Street in Central London

Pall Mall is a street in the St James's area of the City of Westminster, Central London. It connects St James's Street to Trafalgar Square and is a section of the regional A4 road. The street's name is derived from pall-mall, a ball game played there during the 17th century, which in turn is derived from the Italian pallamaglio, literally ball-mallet.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Edward Montagu, 1st Earl of Sandwich</span> Royal Navy admiral, diplomat and politician

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.

<i>Artemisia absinthium</i> Species of plant

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.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Syllabub</span> Acid-curdled milk or cream used as a drink or dessert topping

Syllabub is a sweet dish made by curdling sweet cream or milk with an acid such as wine or cider. It was a popular British confection from the 16th to the 19th centuries.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Vauxhall Gardens</span> Former garden on the south bank of the river Thames in London, UK

Vauxhall Gardens is a public park in Kennington in the London Borough of Lambeth, England, on the south bank of the River Thames.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Génépi</span> Traditional herbal liqueur or aperitif in the Alpine regions of Europe

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.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Mugwort</span> Genus of flowering plants used as herbs

Mugwort is a common name for several species of aromatic flowering plants in the genus Artemisia. In Europe, mugwort most often refers to the species Artemisia vulgaris, or common mugwort. In East Asia the species Artemisia argyi is often called "Chinese mugwort" in the context of traditional Chinese medicine, or àicǎo (艾草) in Mandarin. Artemisia princeps is a mugwort known in Korea as ssuk (쑥) and in Japan as yomogi (ヨモギ). While other species are sometimes referred to by more specific common names, they may be called simply "mugwort" in many contexts.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Absinthe</span> Alcoholic drink

Absinthe is an anise-flavoured spirit derived from several plants, including the flowers and leaves of Artemisia absinthium, together with green anise, sweet fennel, and other medicinal and culinary herbs. Historically described as a highly alcoholic spirit, it is 45–74% ABV or 90–148 proof US. Absinthe traditionally has a natural green color, but may also be colorless. It is commonly referred to in historical literature as la fée verte. It is sometimes mistakenly referred to as a liqueur, but is not traditionally bottled with added sugar, so is classified as a spirit. Absinthe is traditionally bottled at a high level of alcohol by volume, but it is normally diluted with water before being consumed.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Anthony Deane (shipwright)</span>

Sir Anthony Deane FRS (1633–1721) was a 17th-century mayor of Harwich, naval architect, Master Shipwright and commercial shipbuilder, and Member of Parliament.

Bullen Reymes was an English courtier, diplomat and politician who sat in the House of Commons from 1660 to 1672. He fought in the Royalist army in the English Civil War.

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.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Burton ale</span>

Burton ale is a type of strong ale which is dark and sweet. It is named after the brewing town of Burton-on-Trent.

Rosebush was a vessel of the British Navy and is named as one of his Majesty's ships in 1660, commissioned by James, Duke of York who at that time was commander of the Royal Navy.

Hester Davenport was a leading actress with the Duke's Company under the management of Sir William Davenant. Among the earliest English actresses, she was best known as "that faire & famous Comoedian call'd Roxalana," as diarist John Evelyn put it after seeing her on 9 January 1661/2. Her career ended when she married Aubrey de Vere, 20th Earl of Oxford (1627-1703) in 1662 or 1663. The couple had a son in 1664. Oxford soon deserted Davenport and his son Aubrey, marrying a fellow nobleman's daughter in January 1672. In a 1686 church court case, Oxford admitted the marriage ceremony with Davenport had been a sham.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Dick Swiveller</span> Fictional character in The Old Curiosity Shop

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.

References

  1. Wilhelm Thomas Brande (1825), A manual of pharmacy
  2. 1 2 Doris Lanier (2004), Absinthe the Cocaine of the Nineteenth Century, ISBN   9780786419678
  3. Pamela Sambrook (1996), Country house brewing in England, 1500-1900, ISBN   9781852851279
  4. Henry Mayhew (1861), London labour and the London poor
  5. Jad Adams (2004), Hideous absinthe: a history of the devil in a bottle, ISBN   9781860649202
  6. C. J. S. Thompson (1928), Quacks of Old London, ISBN   9780766136090
  7. Michael Batterberry; Ariane Ruskin Batterberry (1998), On the Town in New York, ISBN   9780415920209
  8. Samuel Pepys (1660), The Diary of Samuel Pepys, ISBN   9781847029638
  9. Samuel Pepys (1662), The Diary of Samuel Pepys, ISBN   9781847029652
  10. Charles Dickens (January 2009), The Complete Works of Charles Dickens (in 30 Volumes, vol. 1, ISBN   9781616400293