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We the People: Cocktails in the Colonies

The chill is finally in the air, and the holidays are upon us. This weather always seems to invoke thoughts of Pilgrims, Scrooge, and every other cliche that comes with classic holidays. Being the inquisitive shaker I am, I never much cared whether or not the early settlers ate turkey or if they even knew what cranberry sauce was. No, thirsty readers, I always wanted to know one thing about our shoe buckle wearing forefathers; what were they drinking? This topic always fascinated me, even from an early age. It turns out, once you start opening the right history books, drink was a much more essential part of the colonial life than I could have even imagined. Imbibing was a way of life in the early Colonies that would one day become the United States of America. Let's take a moment, set our clocks way back, and dive right into cocktails in the colonies!

As early as 1622, the Virginia Company of London wrote to Governor Francis Wyatt at Jamestown complaining that colonist drinking hurt the colony. James Oglethorpe, founder of Georgia, feared rum would ruin his venture and tried to ban it. Puritan leaders attacked drunkenness, although they also saw alcohol as a necessary part of life. Franklin enjoyed a convivial drink but called for moderation, writing "nothing is more like a fool than a drunken man." The tavern itself was the central place for all things in the colony. In 1656 Massachusetts made it mandatory to have a tavern in every town. These taverns weren't the "modern bars" we think of today. Most taverns were modified homes serving alcoholic beverages. The idea of a bar as a planned construction business, as we know then today, didn't exist here until after the revolution.

In the late seventeenth century, the Reverend Increase Mather, probably the most influential Puritan minister of his time, said that alcohol was "a good creature of God" and that man should partake of the gift without abusing it. His son, being a little more concerned about drinking, encouraged people to set a good example by not getting drunk. But no one of that time cared. Everyone, men, women, and even children were drinking huge amounts of alcohol without any feeling of doing something bad. Alcohol was part of daily life. Nearly everyone was addicted to it.

Now that sounds like a lot of imbibing! So what were the early colonists drinking? When you ask most people this question, they're sure to answer with beer or punch, but there were many single-serving beverages that have been long forgotten by most

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