Sucking the monkey

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

In the Royal Navy, sucking the monkey, bleeding the monkey, or tapping the admiral[1] was the practice of sucking liquor from a cask through a straw.[2] This usually involved making a small hole with a gimlet in a keg or barrel and using a straw to suck out the contents. It was known for people to die from alcohol poisoning by this practice.[3]

Tapping the admiral[edit]

Admiral Nelson was killed in the Battle of Trafalgar by a French sniper while topside his ship, Victory. Following his victory at the Battle of Trafalgar, Horatio Nelson's body was preserved in a cask of brandy, or rum, to allow transport back to England. Upon arrival, however, the story goes that the cask was opened and found to be empty of brandy/rum. The pickled body was removed and, upon inspection, it was discovered that the sailors had drilled a hole in the bottom of the cask and drunk all the brandy/rum. Thus, this tale serves as a basis for the term "Nelson's blood" being used to describe brandy/rum. It also serves as the basis for the term tapping the admiral being used to describe surreptitiously sucking liquor from a cask through a straw. The details of the story are disputed, as many historians claim the cask contained French brandy, whilst others claim instead the term originated from a toast to Admiral Nelson.[4] Variations of the story, involving different notable corpses, and different spirits, have been in circulation for many years. The official record states merely that the body was placed in "refined spirits" and does not go into further detail.[5][6]

In Kentish Town, London, "Tapping the Admiral", a pub recognised for the high quality of its beer[7], has been named after the tale.[8]


  1. ^ Slang and its Analogues Past and Present - Google Books. Retrieved 2012-10-17.
  2. ^ "Brewer, E. Cobham. Dictionary of Phrase & Fable". Retrieved 2012-10-17.
  3. ^ "Papers Past — Thames Star — 4 August 1919 — "SUCKING THE MONKEY"". Retrieved 2012-10-17.
  4. ^ Blue p. 78
  5. ^ Mikkelson, Barbara (2006-05-09). "Body found in barrel". Urban Legends Reference Pages. Archived from the original on 2009-01-15. Retrieved 2009-01-15.
  6. ^ The Sommelier Prep Course: An Introduction to the Wines, Beers, and Spirits ... - M. Gibson - Google Books. Retrieved 2012-10-20.
  7. ^
  8. ^