Cold weather calls for a hot drink. If you were traveling through Colonial New England, chances are the drink of choice is Rum Flip, which is quite a treat to see prepared with vigorous mixing and a final heating using a long metal rod known as a loggerhead or in the south a mulling iron.

Flip was a common hot cocktail made chiefly with hot beer, rum, eggs or cream, and molasses. The tavernkeeper would combine ingredients in a pair sturdy tankards, pouring the concoction from one tankard to the next until it was completely mixed and homogenized, then plunge a red-hot iron rod into the liquid, producing much hissing and frothing. It was quite a show and the drink was sweet, toasty, and warm.

The loggerhead (often several of them) was kept directly in the fire and heated until it was red hot.  Plunging the loggerhead into a flip briefly brought the mixture to a boil.  As soon as the hot metal enters the liquid, it hisses and pops. It also caramelizes the sugars, giving the drink a rich caramel flavor.  Fear not the hot beer cooks the egg long before the loggerhead in introduced.

Loggerheads were so ubiquitous in England that British people used the term as an insult, suggesting their target had a piece of iron for a head. They also coined the expression “at loggerheads” to mean “at odds” with another person, which later came to imply a disagreement that escalated into physical violence.  The term “to be at loggerheads,” meaning to quarrel, has something to do with fighting with the metal rods.

The tool, however, was far from trivial or unimportant.  On ships, loggerheads were used to melt pitch which was used to caulk seams making the ship’s hull watertight; surgeons and barbers used loggerheads to cauterize wounds, stemming bleeding and even sterilizing the wound somewhat; and, of course; barmen used the tool to heat drinks.

How to Make a Flip

Flip recipes are flexible: white or dark rum, different beers, add an egg or cream or don’t. This recipe is a good but it’s more of a suggestion.  Every tavern had at least one flip recipe that was totally unique to that establishment.

  • 1 pint of not-too-sweet dark beer, stout or porter, heated to “steaming”
  • 1 small egg, beaten util smooth (or substitute ¼ gil heavy cream)
  • ½ gil (~2 oz) rum or killdevil
  • 2 tablespoons of molasses or brown sugar
  • Garnish with grated nutmeg

Place the bulbous end of a loggerhead in the hot coals of a fire, until it glows faint red. Combine beer, rum, egg and molasses in a large glass or tankard.  Vigorously pour the mixture back and forth between two similar glasses or tankards until smooth and homogenous. Decant into a heat-resistant tankard pitcher large enough for double the amount of liquid, since the drink will froth. Remove the loggerhead from the fire and plunge it into the tankard while constantly stirring until a thick foam has formed. Add a dash of nutmeg and serve immediately in a mug.

Published by Michael Carver

My goal is to bring history alive through interactive portrayal of ordinary American life in the late 18th Century (1750—1799) My persona are: Journeyman Brewer; Cordwainer (leather tradesman but not cobbler), Statesman and Orator; Chandler (candle and soap maker); Gentleman Scientist; and, Soldier in either the British Regular Army, the Centennial Army, or one of the various Militia. Let me help you experience history 1st hand!

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