This is a word I've only ever seen in books, usually talking about a long ago time period. It seems to have something to do with festive punch, but I really don't know what it adds. Here's the sentence in Death Comes to Pemberly by P.D. James, which I've only just started. A ball is being arranged:
"Wine had already been brought up from the cellars and almonds had been grated to provide the popular white soup in sufficient quantities. The negus, which would greatly improve its flavour and potency and contribute considerably to the gaiety of the occasion, would be added at the last moment."
It's got to be an inebriant of some kind. I'm thinking mulled wine?
Yes, it is simply that--mulled wine. The tradition is that the British colonel Francis Negus invented this version of the drink. He was a courtier in the early 1700s, so you can imagine fashionability had something to do with his name being attached.
Negus is indeed a very bookish sort of drink, and if you aren't a fan of older British lierature, you may not have heard of it. It apparently features in Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, Mansfield Park (but not Pride and Prejudice?), and at least five books of Dickens, A Christmas Carol only being the rather obvious one. As to books I haven't read but should have, you'll find it in The Forsyte Saga, and in Patrick O'Brian's seafaring novels, and quite a bit in James Boswell.
Here is at least one version of the recipe .
As is the way of these Google searches, I also found a lot of mention of one Negus Webster-Chan, a rising young basketball star. I can't say for certain, but I'm pretty sure the Webster-Chans didn't name their son after their favorite holiday brew.
Negus was also the title used for a king in the region now known as Ethiopia.
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