A Selected Toast and Tipple Glossary

Some special terms for special occasions.

absinthe Makes the heart grow fonder.

all nations A vile drink composed of the dregs of various casks to which strong beer was sometimes added.

beverage Derives from the word bever, which is a drink taken between meals. There used to be bever days at Eton College, for instance, when extra beer was served to the students.

binder The last drink of the evening.

bridal We all know what this means, but what is interesting is that it comes from an old English custom of the "Bride-Ale" by which the bride was given the proceeds from the sale of ale at her wedding.

brimmer A glass so full that the liquid touches the brim. Although the liquid has climbed to the brim, there is a slight depression or hollow in the center of the surface. A bumper (see below) is a brimmer to which extra drops have been added to fill the hollow to a bump. The difference between a brimmer and a bumper can be demonstrated by floating a cork fragment on the surface. In a brimmer the cork will float to the edge, while it will sit in the middle of a bumper.

bumper A glass filled to the extreme. Bumpers are often used in toasting and sometimes taken in one draught. There are two explanations for the term: 1) It comes from the French au ban pe, or "good father," and is attributed to the medieval custom of dedicating the first cup of wine to the Pope. 2) It comes from a glass filled so high that the liquid "bumps" up in the middle, higher in the center than at the brim. (See brimmer, above.)

drop There are 60 drops in a teaspoon; 120 in a dessertspoon; 240 in a tablespoon; 480 in an ounce; 960 in a wineglass; 1,920 in a teacup; 3,840 in a breakfast-cup or tumbler; 7,680 in a pint; 15,360 in a quart; 61,440 in a gallon; 2,935,360 in a barrel; 3,870,720 in a hogshead. Its equivalent weight is .9493 grams. A drop is equal to a minim. (From The Banquet Book by Cuyler Reynolds, 1902)

flap-dragon An Elizabethan drink with a flammable surface, ignited for hard drinkers to quaff in one fast gulp. Drinking these was called flap-dragoning, and there are several references to the custom in Shakespeare's works.

fob Brewer's term for beer froth.

hobnob The quaint custom of sitting around the "hob," or projecting corner of a fireplace, and drinking.

loving cup A massive common cup, passed from hand to hand as a token of peace. It usually has three handles. Today these are largely ornamental and used as trophies. There are a number of stories purporting to state the origin of the loving cup. This one makes as much sense as the rest and is the most interesting explanation: It seems that King Henry V was out riding, became thirsty, and stopped at the door of a country inn for a cup of wine. The barmaid handed it to him by its single handle, forcing him to take it in both hands, thereby soiling his gloves. The king made up his mind that this would not happen again so he had a cup made with two handles, which he then had sent to the inn for his private use. When he next happened on the inn, he again ordered a cup of wine. The same barmaid served him, this time grasping the cup by its two handles. The problem was solved when he ordered a three-handled cup made.

Nebuchadnezzar Until 1986 the largest size of champagne bottle, capable of holding 104 glasses. It is larger than the 83-glass Balthazar, 62-glass Salmanazar, 41-glass Methusela, 31-glass Reho-boam, 21 -glass Jeroboam and 10-glass Magnum. Your standard Bottle holds a mere 5 glasses. See Salomon, below.

nip One-sixth of a quartern (a five-ounce measure).

noggin An old ale measure for a quarter-pint. The word appears in old drinking songs such as one with this currently relevant line:

Before we think of jogging,

Let's take a cheerful noggin.

no heel taps An old drinking injunction meaning to finish your glass—leave no dregs.

piggin A drinking vessel made from a pig's skin. It is one of a number of leather vessels of yore including also the bombard, gaspin, and black jack. Other bygone vessels include the crinze (earthenware), the wooden mazer, and the quaich (silver or china). In former times, it seems that just about anything that you could find might end up as a cup. A writer of 1635 tells of all the predictable materials for drinking vessels, including old boots, and then adds, "We have, besides, cups made out of homes of beasts, of cockernuts, of goords, of the eggs of os­triches; others made of the shells of diverse fishes, brought from the Indies and other places, and shining like mother-of-pearle."

pitcher Pouring vessel originally made of leather and so called because it was lined with pitch to make it waterproof.

pony A glass holding about a mouthful of spirits.

punch Although used less specifically today, the word originally referred to a drink of five ingredients: liquor, water, lemon, sugar, and spice. It derives from the Hindu word.

puncheon A wine measure equal to 2 tierces, or 84 gallons, or 336 quarts, or 672 pints.

Salomon As of 1986 the largest champagne bottle ever produced. Capable of containing the equivalent of 24 normal 750-milliliter bottles, seven of them were mouth-blown in France on the occasion of the Centennial of the Statue of Liberty.

stirrup cup One for the road. The name given to the drink given to a departing guest whose feet were already in the stirrups.

teetotaler Term comes from pledge of a Michigan temperance society of the 1830s. Members were offered two pledges: one calling for moderate drinking, the other calling for total abstinence. Once on the membership rolls, the moderates were identified as "O.P." for "Old Pledge," and "T-Total" if they swore off entirely. They were soon known as teetotalers.

toast The only thing that can be eaten or drunk.

toddy A sweet drink of whiskey, water, and sugar that is often warmed. Toddy is a corruption of taudi, the Hindu name for a sweet palm juice.

tumbler A common drinking glass that was originally a drinking horn unevenly weighted with lead at the bottom. This was done to encourage the drinker to drain the contents at one draught, as the vessel was so weighted that it could not be put down without tumbling over. The tumbler is believed to be of Saxon origin.

water Liquid of which ice is made.

wet your whistle To drink. The term reputedly came from an old Scottish custom of awarding a silver whistle to the winner of a drinking contest. These contests were decided when only one participant was left standing and able to blow the whistle. One such contest was won by a Scotch nobleman who bested a boastful Dane after several days and nights of drinking. Robert Burns wrote of the memorable contest:

I sing of a Whistle, a Whistle of worth;

I sing of a Whistle, the pride of the North

Was brought to the Court of our good Scottish King,

And long with this Whistle all Scotland shall ring.