Schweppes Selection, in collaboration with Södra Teatern, Stockholm’s leading venue for entertainment and music, have created an exclusive range of drinks in tribute to one that was popular when strong alcohol was proscribed and which is now in demand once again. Welcome to the revitalization of the light grog
Södra Teatern has been a hot spot in Stockholm since the 19th century. As one of Sweden’s oldest active theatres, it has always sparkled with excitement. It was here that you could see every outstanding performer of the era. This is where jazz came to town and the best jokes were heard, and glamour and affability came together in one magnificent building. When Gustaf Wally of the Wallenberg family took over as theatre director in the 1930s, he showed the ‘Venice of the North’ what a true variety show should look like, just as he had learned in the US as a show dancer. You had to be continually inventive to keep the crowd coming back, especially since the government did their best to stop anything too joyful by not allowing alcohol to be served during the shows.
Nevertheless, if you wanted a fun evening in Stockholm in those days, Södra Teatern was the place to go – and it still is. Today Södran, as it is familiarly called, is more vibrant than ever, with a stage for international guest performances plus a varied range of concerts, plays, seminars, lectures and clubs, as well as three bars. It is an arena for entertainment that has kept its soul through the years. This is where actors such as Gösta Ekman, Thor Modéen, Zarah Leander and many others not only performed but also enjoyed themselves after the show. Modéen is often said to have done his encore on stage dressed in his ordinary clothes, so that he would save time while hurrying to the restaurant after the show, relaxing with his favorite tipple: the light grog.
The grog is actually an old name for a drink that dates back to the British Admiral Edward Vernon (1684–1757), known as ‘Old Grog’ because he wore coats made of grogram cloth. He is said to have been among those who started to serve rum diluted with water to his crew in his naval squadron in the West Indies, because the freshwater taken aboard in casks quickly developed algae and became slimy. Stagnant water was sweetened with beer or wine to make it palatable, which involved more casks and was subject to spoilage. As longer voyages became more common, the storage of the sailors’ substantial daily ration of water plus beer or wine became a problem. Following England’s conquest of Jamaica, a half-pint of rum gradually replaced beer and brandy as the drink of choice.
But to be a grog in the modern sense, it requires not only alcohol and water, but also plentiful bubbles. In 1778, Jacob Schweppe invented the first industrial process to capture bubbles in bottled liquids, thus making the grog what it is today. Without the magic of carbonation, there would be no true Swedish light grog.
Designed to please the government back in the days, the light grog also became the archetypal symbol of the golden days of vaudeville and showbiz in Sweden. It was served in a large glass – which today we call a highball – and with at least 20cl of soda or tonic, and, most importantly, only 2.5cl of alcohol. Amazingly enough, you were also allowed a double ‘light grog’. Still, not more than two light grogs were allowed to be served during the same visit. This was also at that time the only drink allowed to be consumed without any accompanying food. In those days, however, a meal in restaurants could also be entirely symbolic, with a small, cheap dish going back and forth between guests who then could order wine and other alcoholic beverages according to established quantities. If someone finally ate what was on the plate, he would get curious looks since it had been known to be passed around the tables for days. Yes, these were certainly not easy times if you were a social animal who liked to go out and enjoy a few drinks.
Classically a light grog should only have two ingredients; if there are more we have instead made a drink or even a cocktail. When it comes to Swedish alcohol restrictions, during the infamous regime – the so-called Bratt System (1917–55) – the most popular light grog was most often ready-mixed and consisting of eau de vie, whisky or gin, and water (carbonated or not) or some other non-alcoholic beverage. One, with brandy and soda (sockerdricka) that is still popular today is the classic Grosshandlare – ‘the wholesaler grog’.
Internationally distributed grogs in the same fashion are, for example, gin and tonic, rum and cola, Kalimotxo (red wine and cola), and Horse’s Neck (brandy and ginger ale). Grape tonic and gin became a popular drink in Finland, often consumed after sauna baths. It was launched during the 1952 Summer Olympics in Helsinki and has since been sold in cans. It’s called Hartwall Original Long Drink, but everyone calls it Lonkero.
But it was in Sweden, after world war one, where the grog became a modest art form. And today, this long drink, which was created to be light with plenty of non-alcoholic tonic and sodas, is back in demand. It lasts longer and keeps you alert. Perfect for nightclubbing or long-lasting mingles.
As Södra Teatern now goes through another rejuvenation, it is of course the perfect spot for a re-introduction of the classic light grog. A tribute to those days when lush life was a true struggle due to the morality of the time. Let us enjoy modern grogs created in collaboration with Schweppes Selection for each bar in this classical theatre and meeting spot. Refreshingly light and tasty. In a world of extravagance, a humble example of revitalization.
1) Schweppes Selection Champangebaren
50ml raspberry-infused Aperol
150ml Schweppes Selection Hibiscus Tonic
2) Schweppes Selection Groggen
70ml lemongrass-infused Yuzu Sake
150ml Schweppes Selection Touch of Lime
3) Schweppes Selection Kristallen
45ml citrus and hibiscus-infused mezcal
150ml Schweppes Selection Ginger Beer
#1 Södra Teatern main scene
#2 Schweppes poster from 1930
#3 Portrait of GUSTAV WALLY
#4 Södra Teatern in the late 19th century
#5 A scene from Hasse Ekman’s 1948 film Banketten
#6 Schweppes Selection Champangebaren
#7 Schweppes Selection Groggen
#8 Schweppes Selection Kristallen