Steampunk fiction, reviews and interviews

Posts tagged “cocktails

Elevenses: A brief history of lemonade

Good morning Ladies and Gentlemen! I hope you are all feeling extremely eleven o clockish because the time is, of course, eleven o clock and we are armed to the tentacles with refreshments so, step right in, carefully avoiding the empty glass bottles, mountains of yellow fruit, scatterings of sugar crystals, and the slightly sticky gentleman jibbering to himself in the corner, and take a seat on an upturned lemonade crate while I regale you with the results of my diligent research on the fascinating history of Lemonade ….


Lemons originated in India and it wasn’t until the twelfth century that they got bored and migrated (astutely procuring a ride in the baskets and barrels of hot-footing humans) to Egypt and the Mediterranean. The Persian poet and traveller Nasir-I-Khushraw provides us with the first written evidence that a heady and addictive mixture of sugar, lemon juice and water (known as qatarzimat) was being guzzled apace by the locals of these regions but it is safe to assume that this convivial combination had been enjoyed for many years in Asia before his observations were made.

By the thirteenth century qatarzimat was well established and market records from Cairo show the crowds just couldn’t get enough of it and in Mongolia the lushes  were swigging it laced with plenty moonshine (well, it must have beaten the alternative drink of the day… horse milk…)

But why is lemonade so addictive?

Well, the scientists tell us that the secret is not so much in the sugar as in the lemons themselves! The sourness of this innocent little yellow fruit grenade stimulates saliva production – an effect which lasts for long after the lemonade has been consumed. The brain then comes to associate the lemonade with the quenching of thirst and so craves it, particularly when the we are a little dehydrated (which for us tea fiends is of course most of the time).

But I digress… by the 1600s limonadiers were selling the stuff on the streets of France with huge dispensers strapped to their backs and of course it wasn’t then long before the Brits caught on to the lucrativity of the lemon.

When thousands of Europeans flocked over to America in the 1800s, the lemons saw their chance to make world-domination complete and lemonade swiftly became the choice drink of the gold miners due to its astounding ability to combat scurvy (did you know the humble lemon has more vitamin c than your average orange? Yep, you thought pirates were guzzling rum during their Golden Age? Wrong, they were glugging lemonade…. with rum in it ….)

But alas Lemonade Lucy (First Lady Lucy Hayes) and her Lemonade Brigade prohibitionists’ persistent pontificating on the virtues of lemonade vs the evils of alcohol lead to some bad press for our beloved beverage and today it is widely considered a drink for infants, invalids and the faint of heart.


So there you have it, a brief history of the rise and fall of the Lemonade Empire as it occurred in your dimension. Next week I shall be holding forth on how Lemonade came to be an addictive and highly illegal substance here in out beloved Isles Of Ire and furnishing you with some fabulous recipes for making your own. Would you like to see some photographs of antiquated lemonade vendors before you go? Please excuse the stickiness at the edges…


Lemonade vendor in Selanik,  Ottoman empire, pre-1890


German lemonade vendor 1931

lemonade teapot.jpg

Charles W. Hamill Silver-Plated Lemonade Pitcher, Baltimore, Maryland.

Now then, perhaps I can tempt you with a bottle of the good stuff as we kick our tentacles up and tune in the spirit radio to something splendid…



Not one for the prohibitionists then! We wish you a delightful afternoon and invite you back to join us in the parlour again soon. Until then, please be always

Utterly Yourself.



Elevenses: Strolling the Frost Fair

Good morning Ladies and gentlemen, I hope you are all feeling remarkably eleven o clockish because it is, indeed, eleven o’clock and hope that you will come and join us as we stroll around the Lancastrian Frost Fair, taking in the sights and looking for dainty delicacies to nibble on.

I say strolling, which implies a leisurely pace, but my Very Quiet Gentleman Friend is doing an embarrassing amount of huffing and puffing and gasping for breath which is quite off putting I can tell you and leads me, once again, to question exactly what constitutes ‘Very Quiet’ in the realm above the waves.

I say strolling, but perhaps that is a misnoma for the exercise as in fact my tentacles are all still in splints from the ice skating affair and Mrs B has kindly rustled up an old wheelchair from somewhere and we have strapped a couple of floor board planks to the wheels so that Max can push me through the snowy cobbled streets and over the icy river with ease.

Oh the joy! I cannot tell you how immeasurably more enjoyable it is to experience a winter’s walk from the cozy comfort of an armchair…there are fire eaters and jugglers, oh my goodness is that an elephant thy have over there?! It is! I’m amazed the ice does not crack! Mind you, they are roasting spit an ox with impunity over there and I am certain it is going to lead to disaster.

There are so many things for sale, most of which are double the price one would expect to pay for them because they have the word ‘souvenir’ and a date scratched onto them. Luckily Max is a bit of a Finger Smith and we manage to procure some excellent spiced buns and treacle toffee before slipping away into one of the ‘fuddling tents’. These are made of the barge sails propped up haphazardly with poles and inside you with find some of the most lethal chai-cocktails to be mixed this side of a Tiffin Den.

We sampled ‘Purl’ (a steaming black brew made with lapsang and wormwood) which the vendor told us would have a man gibbering for days, and ‘The Spiky Mother’ (A pungent Assam with chilli and dark chocolate) which had apparently already hospitalised a crowd of eight, but we must be candid and say that, even after four or five cups of each, Max still had the wherewithal to hot foot it out of the tent and away before the angry vendor could catch up with us an extract his payment.  (no mean feat pushing an octopus in a make-shift sled)

He almost cornered us but luckily Max employed a pocket full of escapological marbles (if you naive to the uses of escapological marbles to thwart a pursuer just ask the nearest five year old) and we left him cursing in the gutter.

So here we are again, back in the parlour, and after all that excitement we had better have something weird and wonderful to hum along to while we devour the rest of our frosty fayre,


We wish you all a very splendid afternoon and hope you will join us for more frosty fun on Thursday so, until then, please be always,

utterly yourself