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Good to know: a nip of whisky

Good to know: a nip of whisky

You may be familiar with the idea of a nip of whisky but what do we know about the origin of that term? Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, a treasure trove of wit and wisdom since 1870, offers this:

“Nip is short for nipperkin. This was a small measure for wine and beer, containing about half a pint (285ml) or a little under.”

So, while dram is perhaps the best known Scottish term for a drink of whisky, it certainly isn’t the only word on the block.

“The Barley Mow” is a traditional Devon & Cornish song that opens with drinking the health out of the jolly brown bowl. Vessels of varying size are added with each chorus until, in the sixteenth, there is a cumulative listing:

We’ll drink it out of the ocean, my boys,
Here’s a health to the barley mow!
The ocean, the river, the well, the pipe, the hogs-head,
the half hogs-head, the anker, the halfanker, the
gallon, the half-gallon, the pottle, the quart,
the pint, the half pint, the quarter pint, the
nipperkin, and the jolly brown bowl!

Nipperkin. Good to know.

Now, if you really want to impress your friends with a specific term for Irish whiskey, try dropping the term taoscán into conversation the next time a nip of whisky is mentioned.

Matt Healy (Irish whiskey expert & Certificate in Irish Whiskey co-creator) is passionate about the Irish word which essentially means non-descript amount of something. He says: “Used in households, bars and storytelling in Ireland for generations, taoscán, like dram, holds multiple meanings depending on the context but commonly would have been used to refer to alcohol.”

“As taoscán has most likely been in use in Ireland for as long as we have been making whiskey, I don’t believe there is an argument not to utilise our native tongue when talking about our native spirit.”

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