“Before Democracy, there were spirits, and from spirits we created taverns, and it was in those taverns that we laid out the blueprint for a new kind of country, with a new kind of ideology, not ruled by kings and queens but by men and women.
In other words, we got drunk and invented America.”
How’s that for a story to tell your grandkids?
So begins Colonial Spirits: A Toast to Our Drunken History by Steven Grasse, the founder of Tamworth Distilling and Art in the Age. (You’ll frequently find Grasse’s spirits in my recipes, par example). Part history, part drink guide and entirely beautiful, this book is a must for the drink/history/illustration enthusiast on your list. Though I’m looking forward to mixing many a glass from the pages of history, I find myself reaching for this book when I’m nestled on the couch. It’s simply an enjoyable read with inspiring illustrations (by Reverend Michael Alan) that make me want to wallpaper rooms with water-colored fraktur.
If historic drink recipes make you a tad uneasy, you’ll be happy to know, this:
“In relating these recipes to you, and updating them for modern times, it was of the utmost importance to us that you- yes, you- would not die or even be hospitalized should you choose to make or imbibe them.”
After all, our forefathers did try to turn sawdust into spirits, an alchemy we should let rest in the archives of history while we continue to live and breathe.
The good folks at Art in the Age (whose shop I visited earlier this fall) gifted me a copy of the book and a sample of their take on Martha Washington’s Cherry Bounce, which you can sample if you swing by their Philadelphia spot on December 23rd for a Sweet Lips Happy Hour (I’ll be sipping with you in spirit, from the other side of the state). Aside from a new pet name for your significant other, what, you might ask, is cherry bounce?
From the memorandum book of Martha Washington:
To Make Excellent Cherry Bounce:
Extract the juice of 20 pounds well ripend [sic] Morrella cherrys [sic]. Add to this 10 quarts of old french brandy and sweeten it with White sugar to your taste. To 5 gallons of this mixture add one ounce of spice such as cinnamon, cloves and nutmegs of each an Equal quantity slightly bruis’d and a pint and half of cherry kirnels that have been gently broken in a mortar. After the liquor has fermented let it stand close-stopped for a month or six weeks then bottle it, remembering to put a lump of Loaf Sugar into each bottle.
Or, just head to Tamworth Distilling/Art in the Age, where they take the guess work out of history, and fill your glass in the process. If you’re still feeling particularly pioneering, you can find their modernized recipe (complete with proper pluralization and past tense) on page 191. 😉
Disclaimer: For this post, I received Colonial Spirits from Art in the Age, but all opinions are my own. Thanks for supporting the brands that support With The Grains.