Writing a novel is not method acting and I find it easy to step out of it at cocktail hour.— Bret Easton Ellis

Oxford Night Caps

A Collection of Recipes for Making Various Cups, Beverages, and Cocktails Used in the University

Richard Cook

Oxford Night Caps: A Collection of Recipes for Making Various Cups, Beverages, and Cocktails Used in the University.

Book cover for Oxford Night Caps: A Collection of Recipes for Making Various Cups, Beverages, and Cocktails Used in the University, part of our series Classic Cocktail Guides and Retro Bartender Books. The University of Oxford, located in Oxford, England, is the oldest university in the English-speaking world and the second-oldest surviving university. Authors have used the school as the setting for (or at least mentioned it in) a number of novels and various works of fiction, from Geoffrey Chaucer’s collection of stories, The Canterbury Tales, to Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy of fantasy novels.

Classic Cocktail Guides and Retro Bartender Books

Series Editor: Joanne Asala

For good or ill, drinking to excess has often been seen as a rite of passage for college students. (Our editors are no exception, and had the hangovers at school to prove it.) Oxford University students once even had their own cocktail book of drinks to select from. Oxford Night Caps was published by the university several times between 1835 and 1931, and we have chosen the 1871 revised and expanded edition of the book for our series of Classic Cocktail Guides and Retro Bartender Books.

Sample Cocktail Recipe

Sherry Cobbler

Sherry Cobbler has only been recently introduced into the University, and has become a great favourite among the Undergraduate students. It unfortunately happened, that on its first introduction, ice was procured from the Confectioners and Fishmongers which had been taken from stagnant ponds and noisome ditches; consequently those who partook of it imbibed the filthy impurities which it contained. Subsequently the lemon, grape, strawberry, and other pure and wholesome water ices of the Confectioners have been substituted. This liquor, drawn into the mouth through a straw, has had in more than one instance produced Vertigo.

Recipe. Pound a small quantity of ice quite fine by wrapping it in a coarse cloth and beating it with a mallet or rolling pin. Half fill a large tumbler with this powdered ice, add a teaspoon and a half of pounded sugar, two or three pieces of the outer rind of a lemon, and a wine glass and a half of sherry. (Throw in half a dozen strawberries, if in season.) Fill up with pounded ice. Mix by pouring rapidly from one tumbler to another several times. Drink through a straw.

This fashionable compound was published by a party of speculating gentlemen, who have demoninated themselves “The Wenham Lake Ice Company.” And it appears that the company imports an immense quantity of ice from Wenham Lake in America, which is transmitted to any part of the United Kingdom by American refrigerators or portable ice houses and sold through the agencies of Tradesmen residing in Liverpool, Birmingham, Manchester, Dublin, Hastings, Richmond, and Blackheath.

Editor’s Note: We had never heard of The Wenham Lake Ice Company prior to preparing this book for the series, but a quick Internet search revealed that they operated out of Wenham, Massachusetts, and exported ice all around the globe before the introduction of local, factory-made ice.

Oxford Cider Cup, or Cold Tankard

Cold Tankard has for a very long period been a favourite summer drink not only within the walls of the College, but also at Taverns situated near the banks of the river, and which are much resorted to by the junior members of the University who are fond of aquatic excursions. Many are the sonnets and songs which have been made upon the fair waiting women who almost invariably prepare this cooling and wholesome beverage. The following specimen, written some years since, probably will not prove unacceptable to the reader.

“I have often heard them say that the young men at college are uncommonly particular about their night-caps, and that the Oxford night-caps are quite celebrated for their strength and goodness; so much so indeed, that the young men never dream of going to bed without ’em, and I believe it’s admitted on all hands that they know what’s good, and don’t coddle themselves.”— Charles Dickens

Say—lives far or near a damsel so fair,
So cheerful, so blithe, or so merry?
On earth I can’t find
A nymph half so kind
As Doris, the Maid of the Ferry.

My rivals may boast, and coxcombs may toast
Her in old port, madeira, or sherry;
To them I can prove,
They’ll ne’er gain the love
Of Doris, the Maid of the Ferry.

She looks up the oars, and the old tavern scores,
And now and then cleans out a wherry;
The sails she can mend,
And the parlour attend,
For obliging’s the Maid of the Ferry.

She serves at the bar, and excels all by far
In making Cold Tankard of perry;
How sweet then at eve,
With her leave to receive
A kiss from the Maid of the Ferry.

Both early and late her apparel is neat,
Yet for finery she cares not a berry;
She’s comely and gay
And now I’ll away
To Doris, the Maid of the Ferry.

Recipe. Extract the juice from the peeling of one lemon by rubbing loaf sugar on it; cut two lemons into thin slices; the rind of one lemon cut thin, a quarter of a pound of loaf sugar, and half a pint of brandy. Put the whole into a large jug, mix it well together, and pour one quart of cold spring water upon it. Grate nutmeg into it, add one pint of white wine and a bottle of cider, sweeten it to your taste with capillaire or sugar, put a handful of balm and the same quantity of borage in flower (borage officinalis) into it, stalk downwards. Then put the jug containing this liquor into a tub of ice, and when it has remained there one hour it is fit for use. The balm and borage should be fresh gathered.

Oxford Night Caps is available from Amazon.com.

ISBN: 978-1-880954-38-6

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