ROYAL NAVY TRADITIONAL TOASTS
Monday: Our ships at sea.
Tuesday: Our men.
Wednesday: Ourselves (as no one is likely to concern themselves with our welfare).
Thursday: A bloody war and quick promotion.
Friday: A willing soul and sea room.
Saturday: Sweethearts and wives, may they never meet.
Sunday: Absent friends and those at sea.
The above toasts are printed onto a tin Pusser’s Rum mug that my parents brought me back from the British Virgin Islands. They are the toasts of my grandfathers, who served in the navy, and therefore likely drank the famous rum on a regular basis.
I first learned about Pusser’s in 2011 from panoramic photographer Mark Prins. We worked down the street from one another and would occasionally convene at the ’98 afterwards for a drink.
One day he ordered a Pusser’s, and curiosity prompted me join him. He told me that this was the rum — served in tots — of the Commonwealth navies, and that Barney Roberge — himself a navy veteran, and the manager of the ’98 — had worked hard to bring it to the Yukon.
I stored away this informational nugget.
I did not know Barney at the time, but I knew his name. Who didn’t?
I was working for Up Here Magazine, and occasionally my job included writing 1,500-word profiles on quintessential Northern Canadians. From what I knew, Barney fit the bill.
So I pitched the idea to the editor, got the green light, and trundled off towards the ’98 to meet and interview the man. He impressed me with both his healthy appearance and his cheerfulness, both of which I did not expect from a bar manager in his late 80s.
Sitting in his office at the end of the interview, he offered me a drink. This was my chance.
“Can I get a Pusser’s please?”
As it turned out, the interview was not over after all. He regaled me with naval tales of epic heroism and sly mischief; he hugged me when I left.
In retrospect, it’s clear that the rum contributed greatly to the quality of my article.
Since then, drinking Pusser’s has become somewhat of a sacrament for me.
When drinking it, I make a conscious effort to remember Barney, who is no longer with us, and my grandfathers, who have also left.
The Royal Navy served its last official tot of rum in 1970 — “the Black Day” — but thanks to the legendary manager of the ’98, Pusser’s can be found in Yukon liquor stores — representing a stately link to our heritage.
That it clocks in at 54.5 per cent alcohol-by-volume is icing on the cake.
Peter Jickling is a Whitehorse playwright and the assistant editor of What’s Up Yukon