While I was reading my morning newspaper I came across a cocktail from the 1943 called the Ortona cocktail. This drink was created during World War II by the Royal Canadian Regiment while they were fighting German forces to take control of a strategic junction near Ortona, Italy. Two days before the regiments 60th birthday they fought a considerably difficult battle, with a great loss of life. But being war the regimental brass decided that it was still proper to celebrate the 60th anniversary. They mixed up a cocktail made of dark rum, brown sugar and water and served it in white china mugs found in a partly destroyed farmhouse.
One of the few drugs that was permitted during war was alcohol. Sometimes referred to as, the politically incorrect term “Dutch courage” for the courage acquired from drinking liquor. Anyway, the Canadian forces adopted many traditions from the British military and one of them was providing a soldier with a “tot” of rum before battle. A Canadian “tot” is 2oz of over-proof rum, but is generally served with an equal part of water. (The “tot” can be a variable volume) On rare occasions the rum was served neat, and this was usually before battle, if you were injured or after an harrowing event. The rum was dark, alcoholic and hot, but it had the desired effect and very few soldiers turned down the offer.
Obviously British Navy grog is one of the most popular military cocktails, but there are more. The Ortona Cocktail is the first Canadian military cocktail that I’ve come across. The recipe for the Ortona Cocktail requires one ounce of dark rum, one ounce of water and one teaspoon of brown sugar. As to whether the dark rum (black) or and amber rum isn’t stated, but it is know that military rum is usually over proof and dark, sometimes it was referred to as thick. For this article I made the cocktail using a Canadian rum that most people have heard of, Newfoundland Screech. Screech is a 3 year old Jamaican rum that has a bit of a kick. It tends to be fairly hot and can be an acquired taste. I personally don’t find it as bad as people think it is, but that is part of the lore about Screech.
The only thing I didn’t have is a white china mug, but a standard cup worked. When I first tried the Ortona it actually tasted quite good, not surprising though, because an Old Fashion is similar. Sometimes simple cocktails are better than the more complicated brethren. Note that this cocktail doesn’t use any ice, because finding ice in a war zone, in 1940, would have been just about impossible. If you like rum, I would recommend you try this cocktail and if you want, you can add ice.
Currently I have two family members serving in Afghanistan (David & Mark), so I just want to wish them and all serving soldiers, good luck and a Merry Christmas.