HAPPY STUDENT`s DAY!

American Students of XIX century

(Harvard — above, Oberlin — below)

late XIX century practical classes

typical XIX century student party

THAT the freedom gained by swapping home for university results in alcohol-fuelled mayhem is nothing new—Oxford, Cambridge and Paris were, in the Middle Ages, considered dangerous places to live precisely because they contained so many rowdy students—but the advent of freshers' or student orientation weeks has certainly distilled the phenomenon. It might then prove mildly reassuring for anxious parents to know that students in the 19th century displayed an identical impulse to impress new friends by drinking copiously. A popular 19th-century university cocktail guide, «Oxford Night Caps: Being a Collection of Receipts for Making Various Beverages Used in the University», by Richard Cook, went through numerous editions from 1835 until 1931, as year upon year of eager new arrivals sought out a frivolous addition to their collections of set texts. Cook opened his compendium by quoting Horace, and the sentiments still ring true:

 

What cannot wine perform? It brings to light 

The secret soul, it bids the coward right;

Gives being to our hopes, and from our hearts 

drives the dull sorrow, and inspires new arts.


No doubt with the hope of driving away dull sorrow and inspiring new arts in mind, Cook’s typical undergraduate-party fuel included concoctions such as Rumfustian—a warm pint of gin mixed with egg yolks, strong beer, white wine, grated nutmeg, lemon juice, cinnamon, sugar and sherry. «Such is the intoxicating property of this liquor,» the recipe boasted, «that none but hard drinkers will venture to regale themselves with it a second time»—a fresher's challenge if there ever there was one. Also recommended to get gatherings off to a flying start was the hot Gin Punch, made with two bottles of gin mixed with boiling water, the juice and rind of lemons and oranges, liquid calves’ feet jelly, white wine and capillaire (a kind of medicinal syrup made with maidenhair fern). The elaborate nature of the recipes in «Oxford Night Caps» indicates that students put a great deal of consideration into their tipples of choice.

Cook did advise undergraduates to exercise caution. Not with the alcohol, but with another ingredient: «Care must be taken that the ice water does not get in to the jug which contains the Punch.» The idea of putting ice into a drink was virtually unheard of until the later 19th century thanks to improved refrigeration. Cook explained that until then it was «procured from the confectioners and fishmongers, which had been taken from stagnant ponds and noisome ditches; consequently those who partook of it imbibed the filthy impurities which it contained.» But by the 1871 edition students were expected to enjoy cold cocktails, such as Mint Juleps and iced Champagne Cups, in addition to the heavy traditional punches.

Even though ritualised drinking at university has a strong heritage, the make-up of the drinks themselves have changed. Silver shakers and carefully crafted cocktails have given way to supermarket vodka laced with sugary mixers. Vodka arrived in Britain in earnest in the 1960s, along with a wave of advertising aimed at the youth market, and it has remained the spirit of choice for house parties and teenage get-togethers ever since. Its blandness works in its favour here: it is an accessible spirit that goes with just about anything.

Beer and cider have managed to remain something of a constant over the centuries; Oxford students have certainly always been passionately attached to their beer. When a Rector of Exeter College watered down the college’s supply in the 17th century, students threatened to leave unless the requisite strength was reinstated. The Rector was forced to back down.

No doubt this year there will be horror stories of Magaluf-style excess in university towns. Overall, however, teenagers are in fact drinking less than ever before; they also smoke, take drugs and have unprotected sex less than their predecessors. A decade ago 25% of British teenagers reported having drunk alcohol in the past week, according to the Office for National Statistics; that figure is now just 9%. Perhaps this year's freshers' weeks might be a dignified affair after all.

Americans of the same period had something even better

The primary component of this drink was… well, you know

And it was 100% alcohol-free! 

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You may want to read a part of Melville's story

Paradise of Bachelors & Tartarus of Maids

(just the Paradise part, the Tartarus is very depressing) to get a glimpse of

parties of the Victorian age.

                                              click me! Рай Холостяков click me!

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                                                     HAPPY STUDENT`S DAY!


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