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A Sin and A Secret: The Quarrelsome Tavern Keeper and Fish House Punch

Welcome back to another "A Sin and A Secret." Mix yourself a drink based on a colonial recipe and then curl with a completely true, completely salacious story. Enjoy a new #ASinAndASecret post every week.

A Midnight Modern Conversation, March, 1732, William Hogarth Source:

The Quarrelsome Tavern Keeper

If you saw the last A Sin and A Secret post on the luckless Jacobites, you may remember William Grant, a Jacobite who was forced into convict servitude and worked for a notoriously quarrelsome tavern keeper, Thomas Davis, of London Town. Thomas Davis lived in London Town during the late 17th and 18th centuries. Davis married twice and had eleven children. In November 1706, Davis received a license to open an ordinary (a tavern) in London Town. In 1713, Davis had a notable disagreement with Edward Rumney Sr., a boatwright in London Town. During the fight, Davis was said to have used swords, fists, canes, and perhaps even barrel staves (the wooden parts that make up a barrel). One can almost see the two men scrabbling, grabbing for anything in reach with which to clobber each other. Davis was found guilty of assault. Rumney recovered twelve pounds current money in damages from Davis at a criminal court held on June 1713. Two months later, Davis brought a suit against Rumney, He charged that it was in fact Rumney who had assaulted him. However, the court ruled in the Rumney’s favor and ordered Davis to pay 416 pounds of tobacco. Bad feelings continued to fester after the court decision. An otherwise unknown man by the name of Thomas Clark committed an act of vandalism in stealing the sign from Davis’ ordinary in November 1713. Clark’s bail was paid by none other than Edward Rumney. Davis appeared in the court records again in 1715 as his London Town house had been purchased by a man named Patrick Sympson. After departing London Town, Davis became a successful planter. He owned land all across Anne Arundel County, and left a detailed will dividing his considerable assets up among his sons after his death in 1749.


Fish House Punch

Fish House Punch Today’s recipe is a punch. Punch was a common tavern drink in the colonial era because it made a bottle or two of alcohol stretch farther. That being said, this Fish House Punch evidences just how much alcohol colonists expected to be in their punch bowls. A single colonist could drink up to 3.6 gallons of rum a year. This perhaps sheds light on the alcohol fueled brawl of Davis and Rumney! Punch was a communal beverage, either drunk directly from the bowl, or poured into wine glasses. Alcohol, citrus fruits, and sugar are common elements of most colonial punches.

Fish House Punch • 3/4 pound of sugar • 1 bottle of lemon juice • 2 bottles Jamaican rum • 1 bottle cognac • 2 bottles of water • 1 wine glassful of peach cordial 1. Completely dissolve 3/4 pound of sugar in a little water, in punch bowl 2. Add bottle of lemon juice and 2 bottles of Jamaican rum 3. Put a big cake of ice in the punch bowl. 4. Let punch stand about 2 hours, stirring occasionally. 5. In winter, when ice melts more slowly, more water may be used; in summer less. The melting of the ice dilutes the mixture sufficiently 6. Makes about 60 4-ounce glasses Drink recipe courtesy of

Modern Equivalent

Modern Equivalent

• ¾ oz dark rum

• ¾ oz cognac

• 1 generous spoonful of jam loosen with a touch of hot water (peach is preferred but whatever flavor you have on hand will do nicely!)

• ½ oz simply syrup (equal parts sugar and water, heated until all sugar is dissolved then allowed to cool)

• ¾ oz lemon juice

• 1 lemon slice or twist for garnish

1. Add all ingredient (minus lemon slice or twist) to a shaker full of cubed ice.

2. Shake vigorously until shaker has frosted or become completely cold.

3. Strain content into a glass with fresh ice and garnish with lemon slice or twist.

4. Enjoy!

Thomas Davis Sources:

• Maryland State Archives (MSA) C91-4, Liber TB2. June Court 1713, Folio 101a-102a.; MSA C91-4, Liber TB2. Aug. Court 1713, Folio 151a-152a.; MSA C91-4, Liber TB2. Nov. Court 1713, Folio 160a.

• Colonial Families of Anne Arundel County, MD, The Conant Family, Page 95 <>

Select Drink Recipe Sources for the Series:

• Alderman, Clifford Lindsey, "Of Drinks & Drinkers," Early American Life, December 1975, pgs 87-88, 91 - 93

• Bullock, Helen, The Williamsburg Art of Cookery or Accomplished Gentlewoman's Companion: Being a Collection of Upwards of Five Hundred of the Most Ancient and Approv'd Recipes in Virginia Cookery, Colonial Williamsburg and Dietz Press: Richmond, VA, 1938

• Carr, Eve, "Home-Grown Treats," Mid-Atlantic Country, December, 1986 pgs. 34 - 35, 58

• Gaspee Days Committee,

• Mackin, Jeanne, "Flowing Bowl," Americana, pgs. 39 - 41

• Stief, Frederick Philip, Eat, Drink, & Be Merry in Maryland, Johns Hopkins Press: Baltimore, MD, 1932

• Tilp, Frederick, "Tips on Tippling from Tidewater Maryland," Maryland Magazine, 1978, pgs. 14 - 17  

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