The spirits of ‘76

by Craig Maltby, for Club LT

Two days before the signing of the Constitution of the United States of America in 1787 in Philadelphia, the founding fathers decided to celebrate such a momentous achievement.

There were 55 delegates present. Mr. Washington, Mr. Jefferson and company ordered up the following and put it on the bar tab:

•  54 bottles of Madeira;

•  60 bottles of claret;

•  eight bottles of whiskey;

•  22 bottles of porter ale;

•  eight of bottles of hard cider;

•  12 bottles of beer;

•  and seven bowls of alcoholic punch.

I assume that not all of this inventory was consumed. If so, you’d have a few dead founding fathers the next day. And a few more checking into AA. 

But during that time in history, clean, potable water was in very short supply, so many people drank beer like water to avoid water-borne illness.

I was in Philadelphia a while back. My wife and I came upon a great place called City Tavern. It’s a colonial-era bar and restaurant—rebuilt to historical specs in 1975—that was reportedly frequented by George Washington and other “fathers.”

It recreates 18thcentury recipes and libations based on research into colonial-era cuisine. Of course, I’m sure there’s been a slight bit of tweaking to ensure modern palettes will enjoy them.

You can try a flight of four beers brewed from the recipes of Franklin, Jefferson, Hamilton and Washington. I tried it. Liked all but one. But it does show those early colonists knew how to craft a beer. Sam Adams has nothing on them.

There are other historic specialty drinks as well, like Shrub, Madeira and Cider.

If you’re in the Philadelphia area around July 4 (or any time for that matter), put on your powdered wig and give City Tavern a try. Try one beverage if by land, two if by sea.

I also had a great martini in a diner in the middle of the city. My wife and I reverse-engineered it as best we could and call it The Philadelphia. We serve it at New Year’s Eve parties. It’s always a hit.

Here’s our recipe:

•  1 part vanilla vodka (the type with no added sugar)

•  2 parts pineapple juice (shake well before pouring)

•  ½ part lime juice (fresh squeezed or bottled)


1.  Combine ingredients in martini shaker half filled with ice;

2.  Shake for 10 seconds;

3.  Strain into martini glass;

4.  Garnish with lime or pineapple slice.

About Craig Maltby
Craig Maltby is the Club LT community manager. He lives and works in a suburb of Des Moines, Iowa. When not writing or editing, Craig goes to movies, plays golf (or at least hits balls at the range), and plays keyboard in a classic rock music duo.

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