What’s this Patiala peg all about!!

It’s a common remark that I heard over the years whether in bars or in parties at friends or relatives….”Ek Patiala Banayee…” which literally meant a generous pour of whiskey into the glass of whoever ordered it and while he would grin after being handed the glass his wife would stare daggers at him whilst trying keeping an outwardly calm.

It’s a big shot and whilst the normal pegs in India measure at 60 ml the Patiala peg is a 50% addition taking the measure to 90 ml…that is a heady shot indeed…some regulars would scoff at the attempt to measure it in terms of ml and would probably fill the glass equal to the height between the index and little fingers. Who needs technology when a simple measurement index works just as effectively?

So the question is why is it called a Patiala peg….why not Bhatinda, Ludhiana or any other city in the rich land of Punjab. There is a legend behind this…..and this is what I found out.

The Patiala Peg was first made by the Maharaja of Patiala to trick the Irish team into drinking more than they could handle so his own team could win. The Maharaja of Patiala, an avid sportsman, invited the Irish team; “The Viceroy’s Pride”, to play a friendly match of tent pegging, something akin to modern day Polo.

The specific game of tent pegging has a mounted horseman riding at a gallop and using a sword or a lance to pierce, pick up, and carry away a small ground target (a symbolic tent peg) or a series of small ground targets.

Most equestrian authorities are of the opinion that tent-pegging originated in India in the middle ages in the battle fields as a tactics used by the horsed cavalry against elephant mounted troops. A cavalier able to precisely stab the highly sensitive flesh behind an elephant’s toenail would cause the enemy elephant to rear, unseat his riders, and possibly run amok, breaking ranks and trampling his own infantry.

The Maharaja worried that Team Patiala would not be able to take on the Viceroys Pride and win the game. In an effort to the tilt the scales a bit in favor of Patiala he hosted a dinner in their honor. In keeping with the usual ritual, pre dinner drinks were served. However the bartenders were instructed to serve the Irish men double large pegs of whiskey, to make them drink more, and get his team to win……

Well, the idea worked, the Irish team woke up groggy, couldn’t concentrate on the game and Bingo!! The game was Patiala’s. Incensed that the larger pegs of whiskey handed them the loss, the political agent of the Viceroy went up to the Maharaja to complain. The Maharaja replied, “Yes, in Patiala our pegs are larger”. And a whole new drink; the “Patiala Peg” was born that practically put Patiala on the map!!

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