4 Patriotic Drinks to Get You Through Election Night
|There's no way we're getting through it sober|
With the most depressing American presidential election just around the corner, many people are asking what our founding fathers would think if they could see what's become of their little experiment in representative democracy. Me, though, I'm more interested in what they would drink.
Here are a few delicious beverages that might help recapture the incredible spirits of the Revolution. I've offered up a few modest suggestions for brands, but any brand will do, really. And if you can't stomach these drinks, just go grab a six-pack of Sam Adams or something; that's always an acceptable patriotic substitute. Drink up, and let the immortal (and dubiously quoted) words of Bejamin Franklin be your guide: "In wine there is wisdom, in beer there is freedom, in water there is bacteria."
A favorite of a surprising number of our early presidents--such as Washington himself, who sold the stuff, as did Andrew Jackson--Eighteenth Century whiskey was much stronger and less refined than most modern brands. While my proximity to Kentucky demands I at least mention the American tradition of a good Whiskey Bourbon, I'm going to go with whiskey made from blue corn, something that was relatively popular in revolutionary times due to the abundance of native maize plants. It also honors one of our less remembered early presidents, Martin van Buren, who drank so much whiskey he earned the nickname "Blue Whiskey Van."
The best choice on the market today is Balcones, a Texas brand that does a pretty good job maintaining more traditional distilling processes without making you go blind. You may drink it fast or slow, but be sure to offer up a toast to Washington, Jackson, and good ol' Blue Whiskey Van when you do.
Kids are taught in school that the beverage most important in the early stages of the Revolution was tea. This is utter hogwash. The real scandal involved Madeira wine, an import far more popular than stuffy British tea. Early America didn't have grapes, so virtually all wine was imported in one way or another, and one of the easiest and most transportable wines of those days was from the island of Madeira. Mariners quickly discovered that the wine actually improved in quality and taste by the intense heat, jostling, and humidity of long sea voyages. When noted large-type calligraphist John Hancock had over three thousand gallons of the stuff seized at port over import duties, it lead to enormous riots throughout Boston, which were arguably more consequential than the now infamous tea party riots. Madeira--a staple drink of Washington, Hamilton, Jefferson, Franklin, both presidents Adams, and Chief Justice John Marshall--was the toast of choice for the Declaration of Independence itself.
I'm ashamed to say I know very little about Madeira wine, but experts seem to agree that Blandy's is one of the best brands for beginners who want to get serious about the stuff. The 5-year varieties are economical without being cheap, and I'm recommending sercial, not because I've actually tasted it, but because its traditional name translates to "Dog Strangler." Come on, I've gotta try that, and when I do, I'll be sure to open the bottle next to my own copy of the Declaration, because there comes a time in the course of human affairs where such drinks become necessary.
If there's one thing that would upset our founders if they were to see what's become of this great nation, it would be what we've done to beer. Washington and Adams, among others, were enormous fans of dark porter, a full-bodied brew that is far too much for your average modern Bud-swilling yank. It's a shade or two lighter than Guiness and surprisingly sweet-tasting (especially when laced with molasses, the way it should be), but make no mistakes: it's robust and powerful.
In revolutionary America, Philadelphia was known for its dark porters, which is why I have to recommend Yard's Brewing Company on this one. Their General Washington's Tavern Porter is allegedly made from General Washington's own recipe, and so when you're making a meal out of a bottle of the dark stuff, be sure to think of our first president and all the trials he had to endure to ensure the presidency would be filled with honor, dignity, and respect...at least for a while.
Virtually all of our founders were Francophiles, none more famously than Thomas Jefferson. His favorite drink was champagne, and it was a love shared by almost all of his revolutionary peers. The Monroe administration is also remembered for the bubbly drink, as 1,200 bottles of both it and Burgundy were charged to Congress under the heading of "furniture" for the Executive Mansion.
If you really want to get so much authentic class shoved down your gullet that you actually become French, you should go with Dom Perignon, but for those of us who like to keep our money, Veuve Clicquot offers an insanely popular and much less expensive yellow label brut that would make Jefferson happy (and maybe it did, since they've been making it for longer than America has been independent). Don't save it for the new year; toast it on election night, and remember that Monroe is one of the few presidents to come up with an appropriate use of taxpayer money.
In 1787, a few days before signing the Constitution itself, the 55 delegates of the Constitutional Convention drank 54 bottles of Madeira, 60 bottles of claret, 8 bottles of whiskey, 22 bottles of porter, 8 bottles of hard cider, 12 bottles of beer, and 7 bowls of spiked punch. Therefore, one can argue that the reason our elections have gotten so terrible these days is we just aren't drinking enough. America was founded by a bunch of alcoholics, and they clearly had better ideas for how to run a country than the people on this years' ballot. So drink up, America! Maybe our next great leader will be passed out on your floor in the morning.
-e. magill 11/3/2016