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Revolutionary War-Era Recipes for the Fourth of July

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ThinkStock

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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Alexa Can Now Help You Find a Wine Pairing
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iStock

Even if you enjoy wine regularly, you may not know exactly how you’re supposed to pair it with food. But you don’t have to be a sommelier to put together a good pairing at home. According to Lifehacker, you can just ask Alexa.

An Alexa skill called Wine Finder is designed to help you figure out which wine varietal would go best with whatever food you’re planning to eat. You just have to ask, “What wine goes well with … ”

Created by an app developer called Bloop Entertainment, the Amazon Echo skill features a database with 500 wine pairings. And not all of them are designed for someone working their way through Mastering the Art of French Cooking. The skill will also help you find the proper pairing for your more casual snacks. In one demo, the skill recommends pairing nachos with a Sauvignon blanc or Zinfandel. (Note that the latter also goes well with Frito pie.)

You can also ask it to find you the perfect wine to drink with apple pie and pizza, in addition to the meats, cheeses, and other wine-pairing staples you might expect. However, if you ask it what to pair with hot dogs, it says “water,” which is an affront to hot dog connoisseurs everywhere.

There are a few other wine-pairing skills available for Alexa, including Wine Pairings, Wine Pairings (two different skills), and Wine Expert. But according to user reviews, Wine Finder is the standout, offering more and higher-quality suggestions than some of the other sommelier apps.

It’s free to enable here, so drink up.

[h/t Lifehacker]

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Richard Brendon
This $56 Glass Is Perfectly Suited to All Styles of Wine
Richard Brendon
Richard Brendon

People who take their wine seriously tend to own different glasses for different types of wine. Decor website Home Stratosphere, for instance, identified 18 wine glasses—each shaped differently to complement the unique flavors and fragrances of a Bordeaux, a Burgundy, and other kinds of red, white, and dessert wines.

If you don’t want to spare the expense or the cupboard space for all those glasses, you may want to check out Richard Brendon’s $56 wine glass, which is said to be suited to all types of wine. As spotted by Fast Company, the “1 Wine Glass” is the result of a collaboration between Brendon, a London-based product designer, and wine critic Jancis Robinson.

Robinson said that when Brendon asked her to help design a range of wine glasses, she was “insistent” that they design one single glass. “I love white wine as much as red and have never understood why white wine glasses are routinely smaller than those designed for red wine,” Robinson said in a statement, adding that white wines can be just as complex as reds. “It just seems so obvious and sensible to have one single wine glass for all three colors of wine—especially when so many of us are short of storage space.”

To get it just right, they toiled with the thinness of the glass, the length of the stem, the curvature, the opening, and the overall practicality (Robinson said it had to be dishwasher safe, and indeed, the finished result is). The result is a 125ml handcrafted glass that can be used for all types of wine, including champagne, port, and sherry. The duo also designed a stemless water glass and two decanters. The items can be purchased on Richard Brendon's website.

[h/t Fast Company]

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