Raise a Glass to Freedom

Shane McCarthy History

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Drop in on any 6th grade U.S. history class and you’ll hear that the American Revolution found its legs when the British slapped taxes on the colonists’ tea and stamps in an ill-conceived attempt to raise funds. Their tax on sugar is less talked about, but perhaps more pivotal in speeding up the insurrection. Follow the money trail. When sugar is taxed, molasses is taxed. When molasses is taxed, rum is taxed. When rum is taxed, all hell breaks loose. Thus begins the long and storied history of alcohol’s course through the veins of America.

From the very beginning, our founders helped bring potent potables to the forefront of American culture. George Washington built a distillery at Mount Vernon to produce his own whiskey. John Adams began each morning with a stiff glass of hard cider. Thomas Jefferson had such a taste for fine French wine that his drinking habits left him bankrupt.

As time went on, the American affinity for hooch seemed to grow. During the civil war, rumors filled the air about General Ulysses S. Grant’s love for the bottle. Impressed by Grant’s prowess on the battlefield, President Lincoln instructed his aides to “find out what kind of whiskey Grant likes and send a barrel of it to all my other generals.”

Interested in America’s Drinking Habits?

Join our Drinking History walking tour in Washington, D.C. for a historic happy hour, or, as Herbert Hoover called it, “The brief pause between the errors and trials of the day and the hopes of the evening.” We’ll answer some of your most pressing questions. Are Teddy Roosevelt’s eccentricities traced to his affinity for mint juleps? Just how bad were FDR’s martinis? And how exactly did Harry Truman like his Old Fashioned served?