Part of what makes the life of a pirate so appealing is that the men were allowed to wallow in sin and inebriation. They drank so much that when most people think of pirates they often think of all the rum and grog they consumed. Pirate drinks weren’t limited to just one variety though – there were other concoctions imbibed aboard ship and in seaside ports. Bumboo, rumfustian, and Kill Devil are all drinks downed by sea dogs of yore. Ninjas, on the other hand, were part of the overall Japanese society which used alcohol in moderation and often ceremoniously. The skills that a ninja possesses would only be hindered by inebriation. Nevertheless, we felt it necessary to add old Japanese drinks to our list. Don’t forget to scroll to the bottom to find the recipe for the official pirates vs. ninjas drink. Bottoms up!
Arrack: Arrack is distilled from rice. Its taste is a challenge to most palettes, so pirates would cut it with sugar and coconut juice, or they would mix it into punches.
Awamori (or island sake): Awamori is distilled from rice and is unique and indigenous to Okinawa. As common as it was there, it was rare to find it in Japan proper, but it was often gifted to dignitaries.
Bumboo: Bumboo was a spicy mix of rum, water, sugar and nutmeg, with cinnamon sometimes substituting for nutmeg. Since pirates put into port more often than naval sailors, they were less prone to scurvy and more apt to a drink with better taste, hence preferring bumboo over grog.
Flip: A mixed drink featuring egg. In the time and place of pirates, flip usually referred to ale flip, which mixed ale, brandy, egg, and spices and was served heated.
Grog: The name is derived from “Old Grogram,” the nickname of British Rear Admiral Edward Vernon who ordered his sailors’ rum ration diluted to prevent hoarding and drunkenness. Grog is water and rum cut together, and a proper grog had lime juice to help stave off scurvy and a measure of cane sugar to aid in taste. The concoction was served from a barrel on the deck, often called a scuttlebutt.
Kill-Cobbler: Another name for gin.
Kill Devil: “The chief fuddling they make in the island is Rumbullion, alias Kill-Divil, and this is made of sugar canes distilled, a hot, hellish, and terrible liquor,” quoted from a 1651 Barbados document. Kill Devil was Blackbeard’s favorite! It was a mixture of rum and gunpowder – definitely not for your average pirate.
King of Spain’s Daughter: A nickname for looted wine.
Maiz: “Of the said potatoes also they make a drink called Maiz. They cut them into small slices, and cover them with hot water. When they are well imbibed with water, they press them through a coarse cloth, and the liquor that comes out, although somewhat thick, they keep in vessels made for that purpose. Here, after settling two or three days, it begins to work; and, having thrown of its lees, is fit for drink. They use it with great delight, and although the taste is somewhat sour, yet it is very pleasant, substantial and wholesome. The industry of this composition is owing to the Indians, as well as of many others, which the ingenuity of those barbarians caused them to invent both for the preservation and the pleasure of their own life.” Quote from History of the Bouccaneers of America by Alexander Exquemelin.
Port Wine: Port wine was often available to British officers as a substitute for or in addition to a rum ration. Port first became popular among the English when they went to war with France, and could obtain French wines. Unlike normal wine, port is fortified by adding grape brandy during the fermentation process. This makes it more stable during temperature changes and allows it to last longer during sea travel.
Punch: A generic label for mixed drinks. As pirates took their drinking seriously, so they took their punch making seriously. They were fond of trying out new mixtures and when they found ones they liked they were fonder of remembering them. As modern men like to boast about their secret recipes for barbeque sauce or chip dip, pirates liked to boast of their punch recipes. Punch was typically either a wine or distilled alcohol mixed with combinations of sugar, spices, tea, fruit juice, molasses, lemon, or lime.
Red Fustian: Another name for port wine or claret.
Rum: It has a long association with the British and American navies because both navies had liquor rations and that liquor was usually rum because it took longer to spoil. Rum is a distilled alcoholic beverage made from the fermented juice of sugar cane, sugar cane syrup, or sugar cane molasses (all products of the Caribbean). At one time it was all the rage in the Colonies as well as Caribbean because of its inexpensive means of production. It should be noted that Royal Navy Rum was a high quality rum and remained so until it was no longer issued as a ration in the British Navy.
Secret PvN Fact: Whereas the Royal Navy had rum, Her Majesty’s Army had gin. Legend has it that the Army in India had a problem with malaria and the cure for the disease, quinine, tasted really bad. To get the soldiers to take their medicine, it was mixed with the liquor ration. Thus gin & tonic was born.
Rumbullion: A tingling brew of rum mixed with wine, tea, lime juice, sugar and spices. Rumbullion is often considered to be a variation of the name “rum” instead of being its own drink.
Rumfustian: A hearty drink that blended raw eggs with sugar, sherry, gin, and beer.
Sake (or Nihonshu): A brewed rice wine that has been produced in Japan for over two-thousand years and is consumed warm. It is associated with many rituals and because of the culture of the time it is not consumed in nearly the quantities that would inspire the drunkenness of pirates. At one time, sake was considered the drink of the gods.
Salamagundi (or Solomon Grundy): A stew that included a little of everything they had on hand. The pungent spices would have concealed the taste of raw ingredients that were kept below deck far too long. Its ingredients were commonly turtle, fish, chicken, pig, cow, duck, pigeon, spiced wine, herbs, palm hearts, garlic, oil, hard-boiled eggs, anchovies, pickled onions, cabbage, grapes and olives. It probably became popular more as a matter of convenience than of preference. Of note, Black Bart Roberts was known to have had a breakfast of salamagundi on the day he was killed.
Shochu (or Japanese vodka): A distilled alcoholic drink made from any number of sources, with barley, sweet potatoes, buckwheat, and chestnut being the most common. The drink has a nutty or earthy taste, but is often mixed with Oolong tea or fruit juice. While it can be produced from rice it should not be confused with sake, which is brewed.
Spanish: Another name for sack wine or canary wine. Sack wine is a period correct term for sherry. Canary wine was a strong, dry, white wine popular in the 16th century.
Umeshu (or plum wine): A sweet and smooth wine made from green ume (Japanese plums), shochu, and sugar. For nearly 1000 years the Japanese have been enjoying umeshu and its taste and aroma often appeals even to those who normally dislike alcohol. For modern drinkers try mixing one part umeshu with two parts of either tonic water, carbonated water, or hot water.
Finest bumboo in the whole Caribbean.”
– Captain Jack Sparrow in Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl
Official Pirates vs. Ninjas drink (Sake O Martini): In a martini shaker, add two ounces of orange rum, one-quarter ounce of sake, and one-quarter ounce of cranberry juice. Shake with ice and strain into a chilled martini glass.