The founders of our country were brave. They were willing to give their lives for a cause they believed in deeply. They also liked to drink. A lot.
George Washington was especially fond of strong drink, and many of his favorite recipes survive today. Follow along with me, if you will, in the boozy steps of America's foremost patriot.
1. The Fish House Punch
In 1732, some Philadelphia bros established a fishing club called the Colony in Schuylkill (later the State in Schuylkill and the Schuylkill Fishing Company) on the banks of the Schuykill river. The club, which still exists today, was dedicated to fishing, eating, and the drinking of strong drink. George Washington was a frequent visitor at the State, and once drank so much of its namesake punch that he couldn't bear to write in his diary for three days. (Apparently heavy consumption was the norm; in 1812, Captain Charles Ross presented the club with a 9-gallon punch bowl.)
The punch recipe survives, and is still, I hear, an excellent (and historically authentic) way to get hammered. Although the highly secretive Fishing Company members refuse to verify its authenticity, this recipe was published in one of the first cocktail books, in 1862, and that's good enough for me.
2. Martha Washington Punch
When the Revolutionary War was in full swing, the cocktail, even in its most rudimentary forms, was still thirty years away. Punch, however, was alive and well, and tremendously popular. This recipe from liquor.com is similar to one the Washingtons would've served at home.
3. Cherry Bounce
The Boulder Locavore offers up this recipe for Cherry Bounce, a cordial made with sugar and tart cherries. This recipe is made with bourbon; the diary of Martha Washington referenced a recipe for Cherry Bounce using cognac, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and 20 pounds of cherries. That's a lot of liqueur.
4. Egg Nog
Yes, apparently George Washington was a huge fan of eggnog, and he liked his eggnog to be potent. This recipe from the Competent Cook is similar to one that would've been served to winter guests at Mount Vernon. Not content with a single kind of liquor, George fortified his eggnog with brandy, rum, and rye whiskey (made on the premises in his own still). Those Washingtons knew how to party.
5. Rye Whiskey
Besides being an ardent consumer of spirits, George Washington was, at the time of his death, the country's largest producer of rye whiskey. His Mount Vernon still burned in 1814, but luckily for us, it's been restored in recent years and is back to churning out unaged rye whiskey according to Washington's original recipe.
Nancy Mitchell has even more respect for George Washington now. You can find more of her recipes and writings on her blog, The Backyard Bartender.