Most of us reach for some variation of cereal, coffee or eggs to get us out of bed in the morning. Only at brunch do we treat ourselves to a bloody Mary. Through history, though, there have been monks, soldiers and even children who drank booze at breakfast just to get by, just to survive. It's up to us to commemorate their sacrifice. Whether bolstering yourself against the cold or respecting cultural tradition, here are a few drinks (and their histories) that are socially acceptable, even sensitive, to work into your morning routine. Remember: You are not a drunk. You are honoring history.
The origins of beer at breakfast can be traced back to as early as 1634, at the Paulaner monastic brewery in Munich. Friars brewed this strong, hoppy, high-carb lager, their “liquid bread,” in order to survive the impossible 46-day Lenten fast. You can get a taste of the Salvator Dopplebock (the word salvator means “savior”) in its modern form, but you can't count it as breakfast, since technically, you know, it doesn't break fasts.
The pajarete is a deliciously stomach-churning concoction, a mix of instant coffee, sugar, cocoa, tequila and, of course, raw cow milk right from the udder. This humble and possibly nauseating cocktail, which farmers in Mexico scrapped together to kickstart their bleary mornings, has made its way into the various ranchos of California. Here's a video from a disturbing POV perspective. Good luck ordering it at a bar.
“Put a coin in a cup. Pour on coffee till you can no longer see the coin. Pour on alcohol till you can see the coin again.” These were the instructions used by the residents in the Norwegian Bohuslän district as early as 1795 to make one of the most popular drinks of the time. Russian moonshine is traditionally used because of the small amount of aftertaste, but it's also drunk with vodka. The name comes from the Old Norse adjective karskr, meaning healthy, vigorous or agile, the three things most of us won't be if we follow the recipe literally.
The drink with arguably the best name on the list, Gunfire is a mixture of rum and tea concocted by British Army soldiers in the 1890s. Officers would serve it up to men in lower ranks the morning before an attack as a form of liquid courage — or perhaps a parting gift. While tea is great and all, Spanish troops took the drink to another level by creating the carajillo, coffee with rum or whisky, during Spain's occupation of Cuba in the late 1800s. Not to be outdone in the martial coffee cocktail category, Aussies and Kiwis drink rum and coffee during Anzac Day as part of their “gunfire breakfast.”
On a freezing winter morning in 1942, a Pan Am “flying boat” plane bound for America was forced to turn around due to nasty weather and head back to Foyne's port in Ireland. Joe Sheridan, head chef at the port restaurant, had the brilliant idea to thaw out the passengers while they waited for conditions to improve with a mix of coffee and whiskey. When they asked if it was Brazilian coffee they were drinking, Sheridan replied with what I can only imagine as a cartoonish amount of charm: “No. This is Irish coffee.”
The Bavarian tradition of Frühschoppen, a breakfast of wheat beer with pretzels and white sausages, got its start in rural towns of lower Bavaria. Since, it's been transformed into brunch, occurring at pubs across Germany and Austria most Sundays. If you happen to drink weissbier alone and forget the pretzels and sausages, a Bavarian would probably forgive you, as long as you drank from the proper 10-inch tall glass with the right amount of foam.
In Jack London's 1913 thinly veiled memoir John Barleycorn, about his struggle with alcoholism, London describes his childhood working as a newspaper seller in the chilly streets of San Francisco. The shopkeepers gave him and the other kids a morning beer to fortify them against frigid cold, boost their spirits and offer them energy. Bosses, try handing your employees a cold one when they walk back into work. If they're anything like impoverished children working for scraps during the second industrial revolution, you might see a nice productivity boost.
Want more Squid Ink? Follow us on Twitter or like us on Facebook. Benjamin Caro writes about health and travel at bencaro.com. Follow him @benbencaro.