Toddy Lifters Punch Bowls and Serving Rummers
It is impossible to imagine an evening of dissolute revelry coming to an end without - at some point - toddy lifters being emptied directly in to the mouths of convivial bacchants, thereby removing the need for intermediate containers, and indeed glasses, of any codification; perhaps this was the ideal solution when it came to steering clear of the potentially dreadful faux-pas which would be erroneously referring to a punch bowl as a serving rummer – an indiscretion hinting at lacking awareness of social propriety and therefore far worse than being seen liberally doused in fine malmsey, negus or Trasañejo…
We’ve touched on the mechanics by which the rummers were likely to have been filled – with ladles, which obviously require no further elaboration, or by toddy lifters, which perhaps do. These superbly practical items are essentially hollow tubes, with a capacious ‘bell’ at one end; the intention was that they should be submerged under the surface of the contents of the punch bowl (or serving glass rummer), flooding the bell, at which point a thumb would be pressed over the aperture at the opposite end of the tube; the contents of the bell could then be lifted out of the bowl, held over its chosen receptacle and released by the simple expedient of raising the thumb to break the seal of the vacuum which held the precious cargo in place.
Smaller vessels known as mixing rummers were also required, whereby punch or mulled wine could be mixed and would have been sweetened by the addition of sugar, chipped off of sugar loaves and ground in to the drink by use of glass ‘pestles’ or “toddy sticks”. The action of crunching and stirring the ‘sugar lumps’ in mixing rummers and drinking glasses creates a myriad of tiny scratches around the base of the bowl, which leaves a characteristic pattern– a certain sign of a vessel having been well-used, and a good indication that a piece may be considered to be genuinely antique.
The smaller serving rummers were filled by the use of ladles from the larger punch bowls – and were placed adjacent to guests, meaning that they could indulge in their socialising without constantly having to address the refilling of their glasses. Toddy lifters were used to fill ones own drinking glass from a serving rummer.
The point at which a punch bowl becomes a serving rummer, and vice versa, is one of those grey areas which has defied formal clarification. The design and decoration of both seems to have been fairly generic, with only the scale of the vessel being somewhat arbitrarily used to differentiate between one or the other.
The purpose of punch bowls has not changed from those halcyon days of fraught revelry to the present day – substantial but essentially simple vessels intended to present and dispense enough wine, punch or other alcoholic substances as were deemed necessary to enliven any function.
These items of vintage glassware epitomise the archetypal Georgian and Regency social gathering. Conviviality – much uproarious carousing, fuelled by extravagant amounts of alcohol, dispensed with abandon from vessels intended to cater for larger groups of invitees
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