What Would the Founding Fathers Drink?

This week, Kitchen Overlord is going old school in honor of Independence Day. How old, you ask? Well, if you really want to know what our founding fathers were drinking, how about some of Martha Washington’s once infamous Rum Punch or a cocktailized version of the Philadelphia Fish House Punch, both frequently enjoyed by our founding fathers.

To say our founding fathers liked to drink is an understatement. Each year, George Washington spent an average of 7% of his total income on booze, and he was not a poor man. Thomas Jefferson wrote the first draft of the Declaration of Independence at a bar while downing countless glasses of Madeira. Ben Franklin coined the phrase commonly seen on frat boy t-shirts and on posters at microbreweries, “Beer is proof God loves us and wants us to be happy.”  The temperance movement was far away. For our founding fathers, alcohol was both safer than water and a lot more fun.

Drinking was a social affair, and they were some incredibly social people. Cocktails wouldn’t be invented for another century. To our founding fathers, the idea of breaking open multiple bottles to mix up a single drink you have no intention of sharing would be akin to showing up at a modern bar in a personal oxygen mask with an air tank on your back. You’re obviously crazy, don’t understand human interaction, and will probably try to sneak off with hair clippings to glue onto your collection of crazy eyed dolls.

However, times change, and in our modern germaphobe, highly picky world, punches have become creepily unhygienic while individualized cocktails are the norm. To bridge the gap, try this cocktail version of their well loved Philadelphia Fish House Punch. (Via Cold Glass.)

Philly Fish House Punch

Philadelphia Fish House Punch

  • 2 oz Jamaican rum (Smith and Cross)

  • 1 oz Cognac (Remy VSOP)

  • 1 oz Peach Brandy (Mathilde Liqueur Pêche)

  • 1 oz Demerara syrup

  • 1 oz lemon juice

  • water (or club soda)

  • sliced peaches or lemon for garnish

Mix all ingredients and serve over ice. Top up with the water or club soda. Optionally garnish with lemon or fresh peach slices.

If you’re hosting a big 4th of July bash and want to impress your friends with a taste of what our founding First Lady served, try mixing up some of Martha Washington’s Rum Punch, found in SteamDrunks: 101 Steampunk Cocktails and Mixed Drinks. It was so popular in the colonies that Americans were still drinking it well into the Victorian era.

SteamDrunks Cover

Martha Washington’s Rum Punch

  • 1 cup White Rum

  • 1 cup Dark Rum

  • 1 cup Orange Curacao

  • 10 Lemons

  • 8 Oranges

  • 1/2 tsp Grated Nutmeg

  • 6 Cloves

  • 3 Cinnamon Sticks

  • 10 cups Water

  • 4 cups Sugar

Bring the water to a boil and add the sugar. Stir well until the sugar is dissolved. Break the cinnamon sticks into small pieces and bruise the cloves in order to release their flavor then add them to the sugar water. Throw in the grated nutmeg while you’re at it. Boil everything for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Meanwhile, quarter all your lemons and six of your oranges. Add them to a large container and mash them. Not to disparage Martha, but you could alternately add the juice, pulp and rind, leaving out the bitter white interior pith. Maybe she liked that bitter tang. Only drunken time traveling cultural anthropologists can know for sure.

Either way, get your citrus in a bowl and add your boiling sugar spice mix. Give it a good stir and let that mingle for a couple hours while it cools.

Once it reaches room temperature, strain away all the solids and add the booze. Slice your remaining two oranges into decorative wheels and float them on top of the punch. Serve iced, with an optional sprinkle of additional cinnamon and nutmeg.

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