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The Dog’s Nose

Mr Walker, a convert to the Brick Lane branch of the United Grand Junction Ebenezer Temperance Association, thought that tasting Dog’s Nose twice a week for 20 years had lost him the use of his right hand.”

The passage comes from Our Mutual Friend by Charles Dickens. At first I thought it was perhaps some sort of sordid euphemism (Dickens did like to play word games) or perhaps it was some sort of ritual, which in some ways it turned out to be.

The fount of all knowledge says that a Dog’s Nose is a rather pugnacious concoction that was popular in the 1800s up until the First World War. It was a mixture of Porter (Dark beer very popular in London), Gin, light brown sugar and nutmeg that was gently heated and served warm. I later found a recipe for it from food writer Jassy Davis.

330ml porter 60ml gin 3 tsp soft light brown sugar Nutmeg, to taste

Pour the porter and gin into a small pan and add the sugar. Grate in about 1/8 of a nutmeg. Gently heat until it is steaming hot. Taste and add more sugar and nutmeg if needed. Serve in a heatproof glass.

The author delivers a cautionary note alongside the recipe“It’s a warming, spicy mix of sweet and bitter that conjures up roaring fires, candle-lit pubs, plush cushions, thick coats and vomit. Not that it tastes of vomit per se, but there is a definite future echo of it. Every mouthful is a warning of what will happen on later that evening if you insist on sticking to the Dog’s Noses.”

Lamb & Flag

Now with the festive season looming largish and with a spirit of adventure which could be misplaced, I thought I might give this a go from the comfort of my own home. Later however I thought this a little too mundane and decided that I will undertake this belligerent beverage in public and to really get the authentic flavour will base my research in a pub that Dickens would have drank at, my favourite being the Lamb & Flag in Rose Street.

The tavern mentioned in the book, the Six Jolly Fellowship Porters, is generally agreed to be the Grapes standing at the river’s edge in Wapping. However with there being some air of jeopardy attached to the undertaking I’ll stick to a manor I know well rather than the fringes of civilisation.

Now as hospitable as the staff are at the Lamb (once known as “The Bucket of Blood” noted for it’s bare knuckle boxing) I think a request for them to heat the concoction may be a bridge too far. This at first looked to be a major stumbling block until I found a reference to the same drink but almost ninety years after Our Mutual Friend had been written.

There is a book that is on my “To Read” list called “Dog Days in Soho: One Mans Adventure in 1950s Bohemia” written by Nigel Richardson. Soho bohemians appear to have found the warming and the adding of sugar and nutmeg as superfluous and the Dog’s Noses they consumed involved buying a pint of bitter, drinking off the top and then pouring a shot of gin into the glass. Apparently it was a favourite tipple for the denizens of The Gargoyle Club in Meard Street. Drinking too many is described as “like being struck on each temple simultaneously by very large wooden mallets, or being trapped in the striking mechanism of a town hall clock at noon

So armed with my most trusted Wingmen I will in the next month venture out and undertake the drinking of this concoction, primarily for historical reference, but also, so that you don’t have to should your curiosity have been tweaked. I’ll report back with all the gory details, and remember, Please Drink Responsibly.

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