To call it a cocktail would certainly be wrong but there exists a drink in British Army tradition that has caught my attention. Simply a rum ration added to a mug of strong black tea, the Gunfire was served as a form of “Dutch courage” since at least the First World War. A bit of rummy warmth before walking slowly toward almost certain death was probably small comfort to the troops yet the Gunfire later took on a semi-ceremonial role in army culture being served by the officers to their soldiers in their beds on Christmas morning and various other occasions. OK, but so what?
Well, I thought it might be interesting to create another frankendrink by combining the Gunfire with my one of my favourite cocktails – the Navy Grog – because; Army vs Navy. So a Navy Grog with tea in it? Sounds a bit crap, right? Wrong. It turns out that, with a little tweaking, the combination of rum and strong black tea is pretty damn fine. Who knew? The British Army apparently.
The trick to the Gunfire Grog is to keep it simple as a complex blend of rums seems to overpower the tea flavours. I found using a single, straightforward but decent quality rum worked best. I suggest Plantation Original Dark, Havana Club 7, Mount Gay Eclipse or something similar – and certainly nothing sweet. The tea must shine through in the Gunfire Grog and to get enough ooomph I made it as follows: Into 250ml of boiled water add one black tea teabag AND a heaped teaspoon of quality black loose leaf tea. I like to use something a bit smoky such as lapsang souchon. Let it steep for much longer than usual (as in at least 30 minutes) and then pass though a fine strainer and bottle and chill. You could do it in other ways but be aware that you’re going for something like triple strength black tea that is much more powerful than you would want to drink on its own. Other than that it’s pretty much just a tea boosted Navy Grog using sugar syrup instead of honey – after all there’s no need to go over the top…
1oz / 30ml fresh lime juice
1oz / 30ml white grapefruit juice
1oz / 30ml demerara (1:1) syrup
2oz / 60ml chilled strong black tea (see text)
3oz / 90ml rum (see text)
1 dash Angostura bitters
Blend (just six or seven quick pulses) with a handful of crushed ice and serve in a large tumbler. No garnish required but feel free to use an ice cone if you wish.
Toast Pte Andrew Minto KOSB (189? – 1917 and a relative of mine) who died horribly for a couple of pieces of nickel and bronze (pictured). Just one of the 68 million.