Dipsology: Beyond the Basics - for the 4th, the Food and Frivolity of Our Founders

Credit: RedState

As we get set for this week’s celebration of our country’s birthday, it is a wonderful time to look back and appreciate how the crafters of our founding documents celebrated, consumed and imbibed in their era. The food and drink of colonial times are not always top of mind as we look back on their words and actions in their heydays. 

While today we have to endure people who call themselves “foodies” and celebrate farm-to-table purity as a novel practice, it was not a revolutionary concept in the time of The Revolution; it was the norm. Largely eating locally was the only option, but we also see it as a time when palates began expanding. So no, burgers and hot dogs on the grill were not the norm, but there are a few surprising notes to find on the menu of our founders that we can see on picnic tables today. 

Thomas Jefferson is credited with popularizing Mac & Cheese. He brought his black chef to France to learn new recipes, and one was this variation he concocted in Monticello's kitchen with farm-made cheese. Dolly Madison was, of course, renowned for her cakes, but her husband James, one of the scribes of our ruling document, manages to share at least one thing in common with the Constitution-averse Joe Biden: A fondness for ice cream. Seafood was also prominent as a staple, with crab and oysters seen frequently on tables. George Washington operated fisheries for decades, feeding this supply in areas where they were located.

As for the potables, this was also a prominent feature of the Founders’ daily victuals routine. The term “day drinking,” though not found in Benjamin Franklin’s famed “Drinker’s Dictionary” (his rendition of “The Tavern Conversation of Tipplers”), was a common practice of the time. Today the per capita average of alcohol consumption is just over two gallons annually. The Colonists made us look like potable pikers, as they were believed to have drawn down one gallon of wine, five gallons of spirits, and 34 gallons of beer and/or cider per year. It’s a miracle anything got done, let alone the building of a nation!

Jefferson, as many know, was fond of his French wines, particularly champagne. As spirits go, rum was a leading product, with what is today considered a bit of an anomaly – Connecticut was the leader in rum distilling back in the day, with Caribbean molasses imported to fuel that demand. Washington became a successful distiller, producing wealthy amounts of both whiskey and brandy. (Though he and Jefferson failed at becoming vintners, as their regions could produce a proper grape crop.)

The heavy drinking of this time was not done out of raucous inspiration but of sheer survival. The drinking water then was rife with impurities, and drinking it was a sure path to several infirmities. Therefore alcohol was the safe form of hydrating, as it had yet to be put together that the boiling process was a form of purification. 

Thus taverns were centerpieces to any region in the colonies. These were more than just bars - they served as anything else, from post office to library and even the courthouse. The Founders would convene and plot in these taverns, becoming our first forms of networking, with bar napkin levels of sketching leading to our formation. The spirits led to spirited talk, and the men became emboldened with liquid courage. America was born in the saloon, so celebrate accordingly!

Here are some potable ideas to drive to your gathering, delivering not just a festive appearance but also some enjoyable imbibing. Raise a tumbler to our founding!

          The Berry Cracker

This is light and easily consumed but also a delight to drink with an appropriate stars-and-stripes appearance. The fruit-based rum pairs great with your choice of clear soda. 

  • 2 shots Bacardi Tropical Rum

  • 6oz. Lime Soda or Coconut Soda (Coco Rico)

  • 1-2 Strawberries, sliced thin

  • ¼ Cup Blueberries, halved

In a Collins glass, place sliced strawberries on the bottom. Cover with ice cubes. Add rum, then the soda, then float blueberries for the red-white-and-blue effect. 

    New Glory is all about appearance, but also is sweetly delicious. Slight prep work delivers glorious results.

  • 2oz. White Chocolate Liqueur

  • 2oz. Vanilla Vodka

  • ½ oz. Heavy Whipping cream

  • Red, White, Blue dessert sprinkles

In a shaker with ice combine ingredients. Rim the glass with the sprinkles. Shake well for 15-30 seconds, strain into glass.



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