From a young age I’ve enjoyed ginger wine. I wasn’t allowed alcohol generally, but this was an exception. I was allowed a small glass, though of course I always wanted more! It was always Crabbie’s Green Ginger Wine, never another brand. And I loved it, and still do.
So it was a delight a few years ago to discover that a relative apparently came up with the recipe for this drink. She was Margaret Balmer (1785-1860) wife of Andrew Usher who established the whisky distilling dynasty in Edinburgh. Andrew was the younger brother of my ggggg-grandfather John Usher of Toftfield (1766-1847), both sons of a minor landowner near Melrose, Roxburghshire.
The link between Margaret and Crabbie’s is recounted in A History of the Usher Family in Scotland, a book compiled in 1956. As page 52 of the book says:
A story has long been current in the family that Andrew’s wife, Margaret Balmer, was an expert in distilling cordials and liqueurs from the fruits of the countryside. She is credited with giving one of her recipes to a friend called Crabbie, from which the latter made a fortune with his ‘Green Ginger’, a very popular drink even to-day. It is thought that his wife’s skill may have influenced Andrew’s decision to go into partnership with Mr Dunlop in the spirit trade.
So next time I take a drink of green ginger wine – and I always have a bottle in the house – I must raise a glass to my distant g..aunt, who came up with the recipe.