Newsletter Steven Ferry

The Modern Butlers’ Journal, July 2020, The Wisdom of Butlers Past

Steven FerryThe Wisdom of Butlers Past

by Steven Ferry

Part 38: Dinner Service and Toasts

Dinner service was quite similar to today, but with some key differences. The lack of electricity meant candles and lamps needed to be lit and positioned to illuminate the narrow corridors and stairways used to carry food and dishes between kitchen and dining room. If not done, accidents and breakage often resulted.

What drinks were served typically? Beer, ginger beer, porter [short for porter’s beer, a heavy, dark-brown beer brewed from charred malt], soda water, and spring water, making sure the ginger beer was kept cool or it would “fly about” when opened, including onto guests. Toast was also provided.

If you are wondering why toast was provided, you may also be wondering what the word “toast” means when one raises a glass and drinks to the health of someone. The practice of drinking a toast comes from the late 17th century, when the company was asked to name a lady whose health they were hoping for—the idea being that the lady’s name would flavor the drink in the same way that pieces of spiced toast did when placed in drinks such as wine.

Extracted from the 1823 book, The Footman’s Directory and Butler’s Remembrancer, re-published in hardback by Pryor Publications. You may obtain your discounted copy (with free s&h) by emailing the publisher: Mr. Pryor (alan AT

The Institute is dedicated to raising service standards by broadly disseminating the mindset and superior service expertise of that time-honored, quintessential service provider, the British Butler, updated with modern people skills, and adapted to the needs of modern employers and guests in staffed homes, luxury hotels, resorts, spas, retirement communities, jets, yachts & cruise ships around the world.