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How The British Army Created A Strange Winter Cocktail

When people think of warming winter drinks, they typically do not think of cocktails, given that the vast majority rely on ice as part of their creation, whether the large chunks or stones of an Old Fashioned or the shaved ice of a Zombie.

However, there is one critical exception to this and it comes from a somewhat unlikely source: the British Army.

In the late 19th century Gunfire was the nickname for drinking tea at first light in the British Army, and at some point, it became a firm tradition for officers to mix a shot of army rum into a cup of black tea and serve it to the soldiers under their command.

Whilst, much like most cocktail stories there is no definitive origin story, the most common tale is that it started being mixed in the 1890s before a morning battle, presumably to help wake people up and warm the senses.

It spread from there, becoming a morale-boosting tradition both because of the combination of black tea and rum sharply affecting the senses, as well as the fact that officers were serving privates and corporals rather than the other way around.

Often it is served lukewarm or even cold, which is a tradition that has emerged since the First World War. Gunfire during a dawn attack was served in darkness to not give away their position and typically consisted of biscuits, jam and corned beef.

It then spread from the battlefield to the barracks and is a part of the celebratory passing out for soldiers who pass basic training, as well as serving it to soldiers who are stationed during Christmas, served by officers to soldiers in their beds.

Somewhat infamously, it also led to a somewhat infamous moment during the Korean War, where American Military Police drank gunfire, got drunk and drove jeeps into a camp gate.

For more information about cocktails in Stirling, take a look at our menu today.

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