The History of the Drunken Sailor

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Let’s be real: some stereotypes are true. One of the easiest to identify is the stereotype of the drunken sailor. Any shipmate who has ever been on a deployment knows that a sailor who doesn’t imbibe in a liberty port is a rarity, even a curiosity. The myth of the drunken sailor has some truth behind it.

There are many modern reasons sailors drink. Our jobs are stressful, it makes the best of limited liberty time, and beer tastes good. But anybody who’s ever been to Waikiki after 2100 knows that this is absolutely not inherent of the Navy. There you’ll find a correlating ratio of drunken Marines, soldiers, and airmen, just like you’ll find plenty of drunk sailors. Most will actually tell you that the Marines are the heaviest drinkers, likely due to the heavier workload and more restrictive decompression time they have to deal with.

So why do sailors have the stigma of being the heaviest drinkers? The primary reason is because we have a long, storied history of having tons of booze on ships all the time. While this obviously isn’t true of modern ships (unfortunately, we’re not British, Canadian, Australian, or any of the dozens of militaries that allow drinking on ships), it’s very true of times past.

How did booze come to be on ships?

In the days of sailing ships, sailors worked 24/7 to keep the ship moving, with only the occasional break for the occasional bout of high-seas terror. A drink provided much respite, and since they were horrifically underpaid, they were also given booze rations as part of their pay. While many alcohols were brought onboard ships, one of the most enduring was grog. While wine and beer would sour over long voyages, rum stayed fresh due to the high alcohol content and mixed well with water, creating grog. Anyone who’s tried it knows grog isn’t an altogether pleasant, but it is drinkable, and it’ll get you where you’re going.

Sailors were also responsible for the concept of citrus being mixed with alcohol. Limes were a popular fruit onboard Caribbean sailing vessels since they provided sailors much-needed vitamin C to prevent scurvy. Along with their daily ration of grog, they’d mix the sour juice in, add a bit of sugar, and bam: you’ve got yourself a mojito.

Though the rum rations are gone, the drunken sailor stereotype is thankfully dwindling, Navy Crow is celebrating our proud booze-addled heritage with the Squid Drinking Stein. Part of a collection of upcoming steins, it’s going to be your go-to drinking cup to honor our proud, storied tradition of getting tanked in foreign places and living up to the image our forefathers passed down to us. Find it here.

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Drink like a sailor!