History of Proof

In her latest book The Drunken Botanist, author Amy Stewart  (who also penned the wonderful Wicked Plants), has created an outstanding overview of the stuff our cocktails are made of, while increasing our understanding of how ingredients change over time.

I’ve been enjoying the book immensely, especially the alcohol and plant trivia and tidbits. So far, my favorite trivia explains something I’ve long since been curious about – what the heck does proof have to do with the percentage of alcohol in a spirit?

Stewart explains that the history of using the word “proof” traces back to British sailors who were supplied with rum, but suspected their superiors of diluting the liquor, so they came up with a bang-up way of testing it out:

“A quantity of gunpowder, mixed with rum, would not ignite if the rum was watered down in the presence of the crew, the ship’s purser would mix the rum and gunpowder and light it on fire, offering ‘proof’ of its potency.”

Happy Saturday geeks!

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