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Revolutionary War-Era Recipes for the Fourth of July

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Milk and water. Traditionally the most wholesome, most healthy stuff a person can drink. Drinks that a hard-working, pure-hearted colonial American would rely on. Fuel for his freedom-hungry soul as it wrestled the constraints of British rule. Right?

Nope. In reality, the colonists hardly touched the stuff. The thing about 18th century milk and water was that there was always a good chance it would sicken or kill whoever drank it. Milk was unpasteurized and often teeming with disease. And water? Death in a Pewter Stein. Diphtheria, cholera, typhoid … all that horrible stuff came from just drinking water that was impure, which was most of it. 

Our young country was founded by people of exceptional strength and brilliance … who still pooped really close to their own water sources and dumped all sorts of rotten and foul things into their rivers. It wasn’t their fault. Science was still mostly leeches and trepanning back then. 

So, boiled-water drinks—coffee and tea—were relied on heavily. But, they were imported at high cost and heavily taxed. (There was some fuss over that in Boston Harbor one night. You may have heard of it.) Plus, colonists, for the most part, preferred stronger hydration.

But rotten water doesn’t have to be a problem—because if you let the right things rot in it, that water becomes sterile. We call it alcohol.  

Getting Lordly with Sir John Strawberry

Alcohol was extremely important to the colonials. They used it for basic hydration, for medicine, and for the rare leisure such a difficult existence allowed.

In accordance with that leisurely attitude toward the stuff, in 1737, Benjamin Franklin compiled a dictionary of 200 synonyms for “being drunk.” My personal favorites include, “Been too free with Sir John Strawberry,” “Nimptopsical,” and simply, “Lordly.” (The mental_floss Store currently carries some fantastic and unique drinkware if you intend to get Lordly with some friends this Fourth, and want to introduce them to Sir John Strawberry.)

One of the reasons a person in the 18th century could drink all day and still have a functioning liver as they entered middle-age (which, to be fair, was their late 20s) was because of “small beer.” For centuries, Western civilization had relied on small beer which usually contained only between 2 to 4 percent alcohol, enough to make sure the water was safe, but not enough to mess you up.  The American colonists (cheerfully fueling the slave trade at the very moment they were considering the concept of their own freedom) especially enjoyed small beer brewed from Caribbean molasses (they were also quite fond of Caribbean rum).

Boozing Without Brits

All that molasses brew and rum dried up when the Revolutionary War started, and the British blockaded colonial seaports. Americans tried to make their own wine, but that never took off. They honestly thought it would, bless them. But, as it turns out, America’s west coast would be more ideally suited for wine valleys.

So, replacements were needed to soothe the dry throats of our militia. Cider, made from pressing apples or peaches and allowing them to ferment, replaced a lot of the molasses-based drinks. And then came corn whiskey! During the Revolutionary War, corn whiskey wasn’t just the domain of moonshiners and pipe smoking, Hatfield-hatin’, Appalachian grandmas.

The whiskey biz turned a major perishable crop of America—corn—into something shelf-stable. And it helped the fledgling nation grow its economy. In 1799, George Washington’s distillery at Mount Vernon was producing 11,000 gallons of whiskey a year. George Washington brewed whiskey as a means of boosting the American economy and helping to establish independence from all things British. Thus, by the transitive property, if you love America, you will drink whiskey this Fourth of July.

Some Real 18th Century Drink Concoctions for Your Flossy Fourth Party

Some of the most well-named, most creative colonial drinks are, sadly, not suitable for summer consumption.  Rattle-Skull involves mixing 3/4 ounce dark rum, 3/4 ounce brandy, 1 bottle of porter, and the juice of half a lime. Grate nutmeg on top. Drink. Lie down for the rest of the day.

Whistle-Belly Vengeance, which is such a good name I would consider it for a child, was made of sour household beer simmered in a kettle, sweetened with molasses, filled with brown breadcrumbs and drunk hot.

Below are some better options for your Fourth of July BBQ. These may be the very drinks our founding fathers used to toast the likelihood of their eminent executions for treason after signing the Declaration of Independence. (A better glass for such a toast doesn’t exist.)

Or, if you would like for your party’s drinkware to be reflective of a more modern staple of Americana, try these Red Cup Living cups. They look just like the kind you toss (in the recycling bin) when the party is over, but these are super-sturdy, dishwasher-safe, and reusable for many parties to come. The wine and cocktail versions give the “classier” libations the casual attire they need for a backyard barbeque.

Fish House Punch

Difficulty Level: Pretty darn complicated. For true patriots only.

Ingredients:
¾ pound sugar
1 Bottle of lemon juice
2 Bottles of Jamaican rum
1 Bottle of Cognac
2 Bottles of water
1 Wine-glass-full of peach cordial
Lots of ice (it says “cake of ice” but we don’t know where to tell you to find one of those)

Directions:
Completely dissolve 3/4 pound of sugar in a little water, in punch bowl
Add a bottle of lemon juice. 
Add 2 bottles Jamaican rum,
1 bottle cognac,
2 bottles of water
1 Wine glassful of peach cordial. 
Put a big cake of ice in the punch bowl. 
Let Punch stand about 2 hours, stirring occasionally.
In winter, when ice melts more slowly, more water may be used; in summer less.  The melting of the ice dilutes the mixture sufficiently.
Makes about 60 4-ounce glasses

GINGER BEER

Difficulty level: Medium to Hard – sometimes finding the ingredients will be the hardest part. By the way, the fermentation time isn’t long enough to create alcohol, just a nice carbonated fizz.

Ingredients:
2 ounces of powdered ginger root (or more if it is not very strong)
1/2 ounce of cream of tartar
2 large lemons, sliced
2 pounds of broken loaf sugar
2 gallons of soft boiling water 

Directions:
Put all ingredients into a kettle and simmer them over a slow fire for half an hour (you may be able to find a more modern solution that produces the same effect).
Remove from heat.
When the liquor is nearly cold, stir into it a large tablespoonful of the best yeast (only the best).
After it has fermented, which will be in about 24 hours, bottle for use.

Switchel 

An electrolyte-heavy, sweet-tart drink that staves off thirst. The Gatorade of the Revolutionary War.

Difficulty level: Really pretty easy

Ingredients:
1 c. light brown sugar
1 c. apple vinegar
1/2 c. light molasses
1 tbsp. ginger
2 qtrs. cold water

Directions:
Combine and stir well. 

So at your first-annual Flossy Fourth Party, raise your cup of American corn whiskey mixed with Switchel, and give thanks to the magnificent drunkards that came before you!

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11 Common Misconceptions About Beer
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If beer only conjures up images of frat boys pounding cans of the cheap stuff or doughy sports fans reveling in the alcoholic refreshment before, during, and after a big game, think again. Beer has come a long way, baby, and many of the preconceived notions about the beverage are decidedly unfair, as evidenced by the following 11 fabrications.

1. BEER SHOULD BE SERVED ICE COLD.

All of those neon ice cold beer signs are actually bad news for beer drinkers. To properly enjoy their beer, it should be served at 44 degrees Fahrenheit (with a little leeway depending on the type of beer you’re drinking—a barrel-aged Stout, for example, should be served only lightly chilled). The reason is that taste buds become dead to the taste of the drink when it is served any colder, which means you’re not really tasting anything or getting the most enjoyment out of your beer.

2. FROSTED BEER MUGS KEEP IT CLASSY.

Piggybacking on the falsehood that beer should be guzzled cold, it also shouldn’t be served in a frosted beer mug. Would you serve wine in a frosted glass? No. An intensely cold beer mug will also numb your senses to the taste of the beer.

3. ALL DARK BEERS ARE HEAVY.

If you’ve been avoiding dark beers because you fear their intensity, you’ve been sorely misguided. “People naturally assume they are heavier,” says Hallie Beaune, a rep for Allagash Brewing Company and author of The Naked Pint: An Unadulterated Guide to Craft Beer. “I think it’s that connection to Guinness, which promotes itself as creamy and almost like a meal, that’s the feeling they give in their commercials. For a lot of people that’s the first dark beer they’ve had so they assume they’re all similar when, really, dark beers are just dark because of the roast level of the malt that’s used in the beer.”

4. GUINNESS IS INHERENTLY FROTHY.

Sure, Guinness is served all creamy and delicious-looking, but Beaune explains it has less to do with the beer itself and everything to do with the tap most stouts use, which has more nitrogen than the standard tap (generally a mix of nitrogen and CO2). To deliver all that frothiness, a stout faucet, which has a long, narrow spout, is used.

5. DRINKING BEER FROM THE BOTTLE IS THE BEST WAY TO ENJOY IT.

Sure, a bottle may look more refined than a can, but it’s still not the appropriate vessel. “Drinking beer from the bottle is another no-no, mostly because what you taste comes from your olfactory senses from your nose, so if you take a sip of something from that kind of bottle your nose isn’t participating at all,” says Beaune. “It’s too small for you to get a whiff of the beer. Just like if you were drinking red wine out of a wine bottle, you wouldn’t really be able to evaluate that wine.”

6. YOU CAN STORE BEER ANYWHERE.

Think again! All beer should be stored in a refrigerator. It responds best to cold, dark storage.

7. "SKUNKY" IS JUST A CUTE WORD FOR BEER GONE BAD.

There is actually a reason why seemingly rancid beer is termed "skunky." “Light can hurt beer—they call it lightstruck,” says Beaune. “The light interacts with the hops in beer (the four ingredients in beer are malt, water, hops and yeast), and it can actually have this chemical reaction that creates a smell that’s the same as a skunk gives off, which is why you hear about skunky beer.”

8. ALL BEER BOTTLES ARE CREATED EQUAL.

Darker bottles are important. Clear or green bottles may be pretty, but they’re not doing much to protect your beer from light. Dark beer bottles work best to help retain its intended flavor.

9. CANNED BEER MEANS CHEAP BEER.

Cans are actually a great way to protect beer, but in the old days they would often give the beverage an aluminum taste. “Most of the cans the craft breweries are using nowadays have a water-based liner so the beer isn’t actually touching the aluminum,” says Beaune. “It can be really good for beer. Cans heat up and cool down very quickly, too, so you obviously want to keep them cold.”

10. BEER IS MUCH SIMPLER THAN WINE.

You’ve got your four ingredients—malt, yeast, water and hops—what could be more basic than that? Manipulating those ingredients in various ways will give you different varieties, but breweries are doing some really cool stuff by adding flavors you’d never dream would work so well in beer. “A lot of the flavor in beer comes from the malt or the hops or yeast, but then there’s all of this freedom in beer,” says Beaune. “We did a beer at Allagash called Farm to Face, which is a pretty tart and sour beer. We added fresh peaches to it from a local farm. You can’t do that with wine—you can’t add peaches. People add everything you can imagine to beer like pineapple, coconut, every fruit—there are no rules. That’s one of the fun things about beer, it’s a lot like cooking, you can add rosemary, you can add whatever you want. Everybody experiments. It keeps the beer world really interesting.”

11. BEER WILL GIVE YOU A BEER BELLY, BUT COCKTAILS WON'T.

Sure, anything in excess will contribute to weight gain, but beer is hardly the most calorie-laden drink you’ll find in a bar. Much of the flack beer gets (i.e. the “beer belly”) goes back to the fallacy that beer is particularly heavy. “Most glasses of wine are pretty high in alcohol and a lot of cocktails are way higher in calories,” says Beaune. “If you drink a margarita that’s one of the highest calorie things you can drink.”

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Spain's Famous Blue Wine Is Coming to America
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Last year, a Spanish startup caused a stir when it introduced its electric-blue wine to markets in Europe. Now, after receiving preorders for more than 30,000 bottles from American customers, the eye-catching beverage is finally ready to make its way to the U.S., Eater reports.

The bright blue drink, dubbed Gïk, is the creation of six young entrepreneurs with no previous experience in the winemaking industry. They collaborated with University of the Basque Country and the food research department of the Basque Government to make the product.

Gïk is made from a blend of red and white grapes with a non-calorie sweetener added in. Though the color resembles something you'd find in the cleaning supplies aisle, the ingredients that create the effect are all natural. A pigment found in grape skin and indigo from the Isatis tinctoria plant (commonly known as woad) are responsible for the wine's alarming hue.

The shade—which according to co-founder Aritz López represents "movement, innovation, fluidity, change, and infinity"—is intended to appeal to Millennial buyers. With an alcohol content percentage of 11.5, Gïk is comparable to a white zinfandel or prosecco, and a pack of three bottles retails for $48.

The Basque region of Spain is traditionally known for its sparkling, acidic wine, but Gïk was designed to stand out from the current options. In 2016, López told Eater that his team felt the Spanish wine scene was "missing a little revolution," so they set out to create something innovative. But it turned out to be a little too innovative for the company's own good: According to Spanish law, only red or white wine can be sold in local markets, and Gïk was fined €3000 (about $3600) for violating the rule. Following the controversy, they were forced to drop the "wine" label and start branding the concoction as "99% wine and 1% grape must."

Standards are less strict in the U.S., and when bottles reach markets stateside they will be flying under the wine banner once again. Gïk will make its U.S. debut in stores in Miami, Boston, and Texas before hopefully expanding to retailers in New York, New Jersey, Michigan, Washington, California, and Nevada. And while they may have the blue wine market cornered, there's at least one blue-hued beer brand out there Gïk will be competing with.

[h/t Eater]

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