To mark the launch of True Haven, a Regency-inspired fantasy adventure, it's time to dream up a Georgian-style cocktail.
Of course, gin is the base (see Fancy a blue ruin?), so I felt that pineapple had to be the main fruit ingredient.
I recently visited Guy's Cliffe walled garden that is being restored, and I heard from the project botany supremo Barry Meatyard that pineapples were often just handed round - and not even eaten. Intrigued, I looked up more. Well!
Recipe first – then history.
Measure of gin
Two measures of pineapple juice
Dash of lime juice
Measure of dry vermouth
Twist of lime peel
Shake over ice. I used cubes of frozen juice, as I tend not to get through a whole carton of pineapple juice.
For a drier version, use grapefruit juice and possible sweet white vermouth.
Back to the fascinating history of this exotic produce. Ships brought in preserved pineapples from Caribbean islands as expensive sweetmeats – pineapple chunks candied, glazed and packed in sugar. It seems that the actual whole fruit was even more costly and difficult to obtain. Wooden ship travel in the tropics was hot, humid and slow, and cargoes rotted before they could be landed.
Only the speediest ships and most fortuitous weather conditions could deliver ripe, wholesome pineapples to the confectionery shops of cities far away.
It was de rigueur to grace your dining table with a fresh pineapple, but as they were so hard to acquire, confectioners sometimes rented them to households by the day. Later, the same fruit was sold to other, more affluent clients who actually ate it.
This period was all about appearances. In larger, well-to-do homes, the dining room doors were kept closed to heighten suspense about what was on the other side. At the appointed moment, and with the maximum amount of pomp and drama, the doors were flung open to reveal the evening’s main event.
So, this odd fruit came to symbolise the hospitality of the social event itself; the image of the pineapple coming to express the sense of welcome, good cheer, human warmth and family affection.
Later, architects, artisans and craftsmen took it one. The wealthy would commission stone carvings, stating the hospitality (and wealth, no doubt) of a mansion with carved pineapples on its main gate posts.
Travel round any Georgian property, and you’ll find copper and brass pineapples in weather vanes; sculpted pineapples into door lintels; stencilled pineapples on walls and canvas mats; pineapple motifs woven into tablecloths, napkins, carpets and draperies; and cast pineapples into metal hot plates.
Such whimsical pineapple shapes led the way in food creations and general table decorations throughout the 1700 and 1800s. Pineapple-shaped cakes, pineapple-shaped gelatine moulds, candies pressed out like small pineapples, pineapples moulded of gum and sugar, pineapples made of creamed ice, biscuits cut like pineapples and pineapple shapes created by arrangements of other fruits. There were also ceramic bowls formed like pineapples, fruit and sweet trays incorporating pineapple designs, and pineapple pitchers, cups and even candelabras.
Come Christmas, I might have some fun freezing the outer casing and popping in a candle ... Why not? I can be as crazy as the Georgians.
PS Watch out for the non-alcoholic pineapple drink and a brief history of scurvy.