By Susan F. Craft
Most colonial Americans thought that alcohol was beneficial to one’s health, aiding digestion, strengthening the weak, keeping one warm, improving one’s outlook on the world, and enlivening social events such as weddings, christenings, election-day gatherings, and funerals.
The Founding Fathers also enjoyed a glass or two. Each day, John Adams had a draft of hard cider. Thomas Jefferson imported fine wines from France. Samuel Adams managed his father's brewery for a time. John Hancock was accused of smuggling wine. Patrick Henry worked as a bartender and served home brew to guests.
Some people tried growing grapes for wine, but failed as the European root cuttings succumbed to disease and weather. Vintners in the Southern states learned to cultivate indigenous grapes such as muscadines and scuppernongs.
Early Americans really did not care what anybody thought about their love of alcohol. As a Georgian wrote: "If I take a settler after my coffee, a cooler at nine, a bracer at ten, a whetter at eleven and two or three stiffners during the forenoon, who has any right to complain?"
|Benjamin Franklin came up with |
over 200 names for being drunk.
In 1790, United States government figures showed that annual per-capita alcohol consumption for everybody over fifteen amounted to thirty-four gallons of beer and cider, five gallons of distilled spirits, and one gallon of wine.
Recipe for Syllabub
The name originated in Elizabethan times and is a combination of the words "sillie" (a French wine that was used in the mixture) and "bub" (old English slang for "bubbling drink").
Recipes for syllabub, a frothy cappuccino-like drink, can be found back to the time of the Tudors who ruled England from 1485 until 1603. Earlier recipes contained new milk and cider, with the cows milked directly into an ale pot. Everlasting Syllabub allows for the cream to rise and thicken by letting it stand for several days.
Here’s a recipe from “The First American Cookbook – A Facsimile of “American Cookery,” 1796 by Amelia Simmons.
Take two porringers* of cream and one of white wine, grate the skin of a lemon, take the whites of three eggs, sweeten it to your taste, then whip it with the whisk, take off the froth as it rises and put it into your syllabub glasses or pots, and they are fit for use.
A porringer* was a small dish (4” to 5” diameter and 1 /2” to 3” deep) with a low usually metal bowl with a single and usually flat and pierced handle from which Europeans and colonial Americans ate their gruel or porridge, or other soft foods. Colonial porringers tended to have one handle whereas European ones tend to have two handles on opposite sides, on which the owner's initials were sometimes engraved, and they occasionally came with a lid. Porringers resembled the smaller quaich, a Scottish drinking vessel.