Temperance drinks have come back in vogue and they have sugar and alcohol-free cordials to thank.
Dating back to early 1800, Temperance began as a movement that encouraged moderation under American drinkers. The earliest temperance reformers were women who blamed “demon rum” for corrupting their husbands’ morals, values and general health. Temperance advocates argued that alcohol abuse led to poverty and domestic violence.
In 1840, six alcoholics in Baltimore, Maryland, founded the Washingtonian Movement, one of the earliest precursors to Alcoholics Anonymous, which taught sobriety, or “teetotalism,” to its members. Teetotalism, so named for the idea of capital “T” total abstinence, emerged in this period and would become the dominant perspective of temperance advocates for the next century.
Fast forward to 2021, and you’ll find a generation where mocktails and non-alcoholic alternatives are all the rage among the youngsters. While many people turned to alcohol to get through COVID-19 lockdowns, many are now espousing the same values as early proponents of the temperance movement.
Temperance started from a personal ethos around health and self-control — this seems to be true again of a new generation of people discovering the benefits of sobriety.
Cordials serve as flavouring agents as well as mixers. A little goes a long way and even though they are sweet, cordials have an impressively smooth and subtle flavour that enhances even the most savoury of drink recipes.
Cordials have been the unsung heroes of the mixology world long before Michelle Obama declared the war on sugar. Coco-Cola and Vimto started life as temperance beverages. Temperance drinks were big in aromatics, spices and extracts, like cloves, nettle, cardamom seeds, liquorice and essential oils.
For a glimpse of the real thing, head to Fitzpatrick’s in Rawtenstall, Lancashire, thought to be the last temperance bar in the UK and founded in 1890. Here, herbal brews were supped for their reputed medicinal benefits too.
Purists can check out the original 1904 “Recipes for Temperance Drinks”, which includes gingerette, peppermint cordial and Boston cream, although I think I’ll pass on Mrs Hibbert’s Temperance Brandy, which is basically cinnamon powder dissolved in a wineglass of hot water.
In the end, it’s best to keep it simple: watermelon and mint lemonade. Or how about a Jasmine Crush? A mind-blowingly tasty drink made with mint, jasmine syrup with lime juice, apple juice and soda water. Who needs gin?