“Drink a Highball at nightfall
Be good fellows while you may
For tomorrow may bring sorrow
So tonight, lets all be Gay!
Tell the story of Glory
Drink a highball And be jolly
Here’s a toast to dear old Penn!”
– G.B. Brigham
For those five or six Penn students that go to football games, these words should sound familiar. For the less sports-inclined members of our audience, this is the song sung at games right before toast is thrown on to Franklin Field. Surprisingly, the weird toast throwing tradition wasn’t always so. Back in the glory days of Penn, when the liquor flowed freely and we didn’t need endless polls and rankings to know how great we are (read: modest), they actually drank a highball at the end of this song, with no fear of being unceremoniously tossed from the game (shoutout to Princeton). This tradition is one as weird as the recipe for our namesake drink “The Pennsylvanian.”
The song that crystallized this tradition in Penn lore was first penned (obligatory pun-induced groan) in 1901 by a gentleman named G.B. Brigham. The tradition then carried on with much gusto and fervor as the number of Penn victories rose as high as the collective B.A.C. of the fans. However, the tradition came to an unceremonious halt during Prohibition. This is when the toast throwing tradition is rumored to have begun (being the clever Penn students that they are, our oh-so-literal alums of old decided that throwing toast and drinking a toast were pretty much equivalent). While that tradition has endured, Penn’s lack of on-site tailgating, drinking and general pregame fun at sporting events has remained .
Concerning the drink itself, its best trait is how each ingredient has a historical significance to Penn.
First, we have the Calvados, the chief liquor in the drink. This apple brandy is a nod to the tradition of cider making that was frequent in colonial times in Pennsylvania. The selection of Calvados itself is an acknowledgement to our founding father Benny F’s love of all things French.
Next up is the Madeira wine. This Portuguese wine is purported to have been Franklin’s favorite, along with many other found fathers.
The next ingredient, an egg white, has a far too intellectual origin to not be in an Ivy League drink. Its addition is meant to give some body and creaminess to the drink, but is included primarily because of the popular quote from Poor Richard’s Almanac that stated, “an egg today is better than a hen tomorrow.” While the wisdom of this quote is not lost, the egg itself really changes up the drink. Mix all of these together, pour in a highball glass (duh), and garnish with a lemon to really get highbrow with your drink.
While it doesn’t look like we will be drinking highballs at any sporting events any time soon, to show a little bit of Penn spirit (Penn-Princeton doesn’t count!), drink a highball (or four) before the next sporting event/bar/class you attend. And remember, if Ben Franklin was turning into “Blackout Ben” 250 years ago, it’d be disrespectful to tradition not to at least try.
Total Time: 5 minutes
2 1/4 ounces of Calvados
1 1/2 ounces of Madeira
1 egg white
Optional: lemon garnish
- Mix together all your liquid ingredients and shake well so the egg white is evenly distributed.
- Pour the drink over ice to cool it and shake.
- Strain into a highball glass and feel the Penn pride go straight to your liver.
- Drink at least 4 more (we are at like, the number one party school, right)?