Greetings everyone ! Outwith the domain of the miserly and the abstemious, it’s always a singular pleasure at this time of year to receive – by way of a gift – the familiar, weighty bulk of a bottle, be it one of fine wines or spirits.

Although there are some notable exceptions, wines are a cheaper option and can be cheerily dispensed by the glass without undue concern. However, it’s rare nowadays for spirts other than those bearing supermarkets’ own branding to be marketed as anything other than premium, and their cost has escalated even before the intervention of Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs, levying their own non-festive brand of taxation. Christmas spirits – and I’m not talking Jacob Marley and chums – are costly commodities, and as such should be dispensed with due care and attention – particularly as any soiree wears on, and measures get exponentially more generous...

Luckily, our forebears have provided us with a means to ensure that a judicious – some might say frugal – approach can be maintained when doling out otherwise indulgent portions of festive cheer; spirit measures. These scaled-down carafes date back to the 19th century – the Regency and Victorian eras of perceived decorum and social jurisprudence. Their original purpose was to ensure that the customers of commercial concerns – public houses, hotels, clubs and restaurants – would be guaranteed something approaching a standardised amount of alcohol for their money from one establishment to another. The bottling of liquors was – at the time – expensive and time consuming, and they were delivered to their point of sale destinations in barrels, casks or stoneware jars. Licensees could subsequently dole out pretty much however much they liked per portion, with scant regard for consistency or value for money, as the introduction of the ‘optic’ measure with which we are familiar was still several decades away.

There was a dawning realisation that not only were customers quite literally getting short measures on a regular basis but – more heinous still from the vendors perspective – that there may be instances where too much valuable potage was being given away; there had to be some sort of equitable solution – and hence consensus was achieved with the advent of the spirit measure.

A further consideration was the imposition of duty – the government were keen to ensure that they got their fair share of the proceeds and this also demanded that some semblance of accurate record-keeping was enacted. Hence, we see a number of measures which include stamped metal ‘inserts’ in their necks – supposedly to indicate strict compliance with ‘weights and measures’ regulations.

We always have a good selection of these little glass treasures down at the Pantiles Arcade, and they’d make an ideal and deliciously pointed Christmas gift for parsimonious relatives, or a prudent addition to your own drinks’ cabinet to ensure that your dispensation of festive cheer doesn’t veer irresponsibly across the boundary from cheery largesse to licentious debauchery. Their prices rarely reach three figures, so you can ensure that not only is Great Aunt Agatha’s cherry brandy intake properly moderated, but that your initial outlay also remains well within manageable bounds – a convivial yet considerate consequence all round, I’m sure you will agree.

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