Getting Screech’d In: A History of Kissing Cod in Newfoundland
Screech: Rum in Newfoundland?
Obviously, rum is not a natural export of Newfoundland, so how did it become not only a central feature of the country’s (admittedly unofficial) swearing in ceremony, but even the source of the ceremony’s name?
Well back in the day, Newfoundland and Jamaica were trading partners: Jamaica received cod from Newfoundland (which, in turn became Jamaica’s national dish of ackee and cod fish), and Newfoundland received rum in exchange. But there was something special about this rum: Specifically, it was shipped at a very high alcohol content – 140 proof, or 70%. This was so the alcohol could be diluted when it made landfall, making it so you could ship more rum in each trip.
What’s in a name?
Now, it should be mentioned that the following story is mostly conjecture. However, it is shared widely enough that, while it’s likely not true, it is popular enough to have lived on.
The fable goes that American soldiers during WWII stopped in Newfoundland before they heading off to Europe, and, as you do, they visited the bars before they shipped out. On one such night, a visiting captain was drinking with a native Newfoundlander. The two cheers’d, and the Newfoundlander took a gulp of screech. The captain, trying to match his acquaintance’s bravery, took a straight shot of the 140 proof rum, and immediately shreiked in horror. This called forth a nearby general who asked, “What was that screech?” to which the Newfoundlander responded: “The screech? T’is the rum, me son.”
The Ceremony Itself
Step 1: The Poem
From the waters of the Avalon, to the shores of Labrador, We’ve always stuck together, with a Rant and with a Roar. To those who’ve never been, soon they’ll understand, From coast to coast, we raise a toast, we love thee Newfoundland!
Step 2: Kissing the Fish
Step 3: The Question
Next, you are asked, in a thick Newfoundlander accent, “Is ye a Screecher?!” To which you must respond: “Deed I is, me old cock! And long may your big jib draw!” (This roughly translates from sailor to English as, “Indeed I am, old chum, and may there always be wind in your sails!”)
Taking the Shot
Metropolitan (take on a Cosmopolitan)
-2 oz Screech Rum
-2 oz Cranberry Juice
-½ oz of Orange Liqueur (Triple Sec or Cointreau)
-Juice of 1 lime
-Splash of club soda
1 oz Screech
¼ oz Triple Sec or Grand Marnier
2 oz cream or milk