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A mixture of black treacle and gin, an old sailor's drink.

Commercial Treacle-Gin (With some Treacle Tart)
Image: https://sipsmith.com

J. Boswell's 'Life Johnson' of 1781 has; "They [the Cornish fishermen] call it Mahogany; and it is made of two parts gin and one part treacle, well beat together." (OED)

In 1781, Boswell and Johnson were in Devon, visiting their friend Joshua Reynolds. It was ‘a most agreeable day’ and many acquaintances were present, among them the Cornishman Edward Craggs-Eliot, who would become the first Baron Eliot of Port-Eliot three years later. Of the few details recounted of this meeting by Boswell in his Life of Johnson, the following caught my attention:

Mr. Eliot mentioned a curious liquor peculiar to his country, which the Cornish fishermen drink. They call it Mahogany; and it is made of two parts gin, and one part treacle, well beaten together. I begged to have some of it made, which was done with proper skill by Mr. Eliot. I thought it very good liquor.

That’s what we’re about here: Mahogany. It sounded curious so I thought I'd make my own. To mix the treacle effectively with the gin, at least one of the ingredients has to be warmed. Treacle would be more difficult to clean off, so I’m warming the gin instead. As it gently warms, I thought I might consider the drink's history.

In Cornwall, it is mentioned several times, including once in 1865 by Robert Hunt in his Popular Romances of the West of England, where it is mentioned in passing with other 'Peculiar Words and Phrases'. Fred Jago, who lived in Bodmin and wrote The Ancient Language and the Dialect of Cornwall in 1882, included Mahogany in his glossary, describing it simply as ‘Gin sweetened with treacle’. In both sources, Mahogany is placed in Cornwall. Continued at: www.researchspillway.blogspot.com

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