Interesting History: Liquor Was A Big Part Of Early America

on 30/06/14 at 9:47 am

Booze News

1_Sea_Captains_SurinamYou know George Washington and John Hancock as Founding Fathers. But what about George Washington, successful whiskey distiller? Or John Hancock, fortified wine importer?

Turns out some of that patriotic spirit came in bottles.

“I was surprised at how much people drank,” says Corin Hirsch, who chronicled the drinking habits of colonial-era Americans in her recently released book “Forgotten Drinks of Colonial New England: From Flips and Rattle-Skulls to Switchel and Spruce Beer.”

“People were starting their days with alcohol and ending their days with alcohol. It was woven into the culture in fundamental ways.”

Take John Adams, second president of the United States and father of the sixth, who started each day with a tankard of cider. Adams also served as lawyer for Hancock, who got into a kerfuffle in 1768 when the British seized his sloop, the Liberty, in Boston Harbor, claiming – charges that didn’t stick – that Hancock had avoided paying duties on most of his shipment of Madeira, a fortified wine.

Madeira made sense as a New World drink because it developed its character through being exposed to heat and sloshing around in barrels at sea. Sherry, also fortified, was popular, too.

The one thing colonials weren’t likely to drink was water, considered a very dubious beverage at that time.

Where there are spirits there must be mixology. A simple colonial cocktail was rum dropped into cider, known as a Stone Wall or Stone Fence, Hirsch says.

“Flip” was the artisanal cocktail of the day, generally a mix of beer, rum, eggs, spices, sometimes cream, served warm and blended by being poured from one pitcher to another until creamy and silky. To finish, a hot poker was plunged in, imparting a charred flavor and creating a froth and steam on par with today’s bartending pyrotechnics.

Beer was the drink of the early immigrants. One of the reasons the Mayflower landed in Massachusetts rather than continuing south was because beer was running low, notes David Sipes, cider maker at Angry Orchard.

READ MORE