Top 10 St George’s Day drinks
As it’s St George’s Day, the patron saint of England, why not celebrate the day with a typically English drink, such as mead or Pimm’s and others we’ve selected.
Although he was born in Turkey, Saint George’s patronage of England is widely attributed to King Edward III in the 14th century. Edward founded England’s premier order of knighthood, the Order of the Garter, around 1348 and put it under Saint George’s patronage. Since the 14th century Saint George has been widely regarded as a special protector of the English.
From the early 15th century St George’s Day was a major feast and national holiday in England, said to be on a par with Christmas Day. By the end of the 18th century the union of England with Scotland had seen the traditional St George’s Day celebration wane.
But in recent years the English celebrations on 23 April have seen something of a revival and it is common to see pubs and other buildings festooned with flags and garlands of St George’s crosses.
So if you are planning on marking St George’s Day today, here are some English drinks for you to enjoy with your celebrations.
English sparkling wine
What better way to mark a celebration than drinking a sparkler and English sparkling wine has grown in both quality and quantity in recent years.
According to market research, conducted by Vinexpo, and commissioned from International Wine and Spirit Research, the global consumption of English bubbles will increase by 342% in the 10 years leading up to 2017.
Winemakers have claimed that the cost of sparkling wines has been coming down, making it more affordable, whilst the quality, particularly of English sparkling wine, has improved in recent years, adding to its popularity.
Pimm was a farmer’s son from Kent, who became the owner of an oyster bar in the City of London. Pimm offered a tonic at his bar, which was said to be an aid to digestion and was served in a special tankard, known as the “No. 1 Cup.” This name is still shown on the Pimm’s bottle today.
The brand has been a regular feature of many English (and indeed British) celebrations over the years and a Union flag bottle was produced for last year’s diamond jubilee.
Pimm’s recently introduced a blackberry and elderflower variation and you can expect to see many people raising a Pimm’s to St George today.
Ale is one of the oldest beverages produced by humans with references written in the history of Ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia, dating back to the 5th millennium BC. England is known for top fermented cask beer, also known as cask conditioned ale, which finishes maturing in the pub cellar rather than at the brewery.
Local, regional beers have grown increasingly popular throughout England in recent times and an expansion of craft beer has seen microbreweries grow in number and popularity. English beer styles include brown ale, mild, porter or stout and bitter, which incorporates best bitter, premium bitter and India Pale Ale.
Many breweries look to cash in on the growing popularity of St George’s Day with specific brews including Davenports’ England’s Glory lager, Daleside brewery’s St George’s Ale and Wadworth’s Red, white and brew ale.
The UK has the highest per capita consumption of cider, as well as the largest cider-producing companies in the world.
Traditional English cider can have a high alcohol content and the drink is particularly popular in the South West of England and East Anglia.
Since late 2010, the UK’s HM Revenue and Customs has ruled that cider must contain at least 35% apple juice and “must have a pre-fermentation gravity of at lead 1033 degrees.
Although cloudy “scrumpy” has increased in popularity in England, a key market remains the strong, white, mass-produced cider, at 7.5% abv or stronger, with brands like White Lightning, Diamond White and K-cider dominating.
Perry is made in a similar way to cider, although using fermented pears and has been popular in England for centuries. The majority of perry varieties originate from the three counties of Gloucestershire, Herefordshire and Worcestershire.
Although the brand Babycham was hugely popular in the 1970s, the second half of the last century saw a huge decline in perry consumption. However in recent years times both cider and perry have enjoyed a revival with brewers like Gaymers, Bulmers and Magners all introducing a pear cider variety and many supermarkets increasing the number of perry and pear cider brands that they offer to consumers.
London Gin has been recognised as a special quality beverage by the European Union. The EU definition for London Gin was passed into EU law in February 2008, as part of revised EU spirit drink regulations.
London Gin is listed as a “premium gin product” and the definition will help maintain its “high standards of production and protect the drink from counterfeit products”.
The definition includes that “the ethyl alcohol used to distil London Gin must be of a higher quality than the standard laid down for ethyl alcohol. The methanol level in the ethyl alcohol must not exceed a maximum of 5 grams per hectolitre of 100% vol. alcohol.”
Other elements include that all flavourings must be natural and impart the flavour during the distillation process, artificial flavourings are not permitted, no more the 0.1 grams per litre of sweetening can be added and London Gin cannot be coloured.
Why not enjoy your gin with a tonic water, which was initially developed by the British to help protect its army against malaria when in tropical areas.
Alcoholic ginger beer
Brewed ginger beer originated in Yorkshire in the mid 18th century and then became a popular drink throughout the UK. Although non-alcoholic ginger beer has always been popular Crabbie’s were the first to bring a modern alcoholic ginger beer to market in 2009.
Although Crabbie’s is actually a Scottish drink, it has been followed by several companies including, but not limited to, Fentimans and Ginger Joe and Bath Ales.
Mead can also be known as honey wine, it is produced by fermenting a solution of honey and water. It is a historic drink, indeed some people claim “before any other alcoholic drink was thought of, mead was being drunk in the great halls and palaces of England”.
Mead was generally made by monks in monasteries, but when these were dissolved by King Henry VIII, production and subsequently the drinking of mead began to fade away.
As with many other drinks in recent times some of these historic recipes for mead have been rediscovered and the drink is enjoying something of a revival. Cornwall and the west country have proven popular starting points for mead and the drink “is being rediscovered by a new generation of Englishmen.”
English still and sparkling wines are capturing the headlines at present, but as Fiona Beckett pointed out in her recent Guardian column, “there’s a strong tradition of making fruit- and flower-flavoured wines that also seems to be undergoing a revival.”
Using hedgerow or orchard fruit and/or flowers such as roses and dandelions, fruit wines can, sometimes justifiably, be seen as the preserve of eccentrics and be a little odd themselves (broad bean wine anybody?). However, as Beckett points out in her article, when well made, good fruit wines may in fact be more enjoyable than poorer quality grape wine.
They are also relatively inexpensive, largely low alcohol and have a level of sweetness that many find pleasing.
The use of punch as a word for a drink was first recorded in British documents in 1632, and within 40 years other documents make reference to “punch houses”.
A punch cup is traditionally served before a hunting party departs in England and is now commonly served at many quintessentially English events like garden parties plus cricket and tennis matches. Punch cups are generally lower in content than other more traditional punches.
As mentioned Pimm’s started out life as a style of punch, but in order to celebrate St George’s Day, why not make your own punch cup? The drink is usually made with wine, cider, sloe gin or liqueurs as the base and include a variety of fruit juices or soft drinks and St George flags as decoration.