“The days are short, the weather’s cold,
By tavern fires tales are told.
Some ask for dram when first come in,
Others with flip and bounce begin.”
~New England Almanac, December 1704
Our colonial-era ancestors worked hard. They had to. And after a hard days work, they liked to relax in the company of their friends & neighbors. If they indulged too much, then they had dozens of words to describe drunkenness. Benjamin Franklin collected more than 200 such terms, including addled, afflicted, biggy, boozy, busky, buzzey, cherubimical, cracked, and “halfway to Concord.”
It was also tough being on the road in those days. Travelling meant walking, riding, and if you were lucky a teeth-rattling ride in a coach full of strangers. Before television, the internet, and decent hotels, taverns provided a place to catch up on gossip and news, to debate politics, and to find bed & board for human and horse while journeying. The quality of food, drink and service varied greatly though, and an honest inn-keeper was valued. (For an amusing look at tavern life check out this page from the historical Blanchard Tavern in Avon, MA.)
In the 18th century, distilled spirits like rum, whiskey and gin were still fairly new to the public, but much in demand. A skilled inn-keeper knew what his (and sometimes her) patrons wanted and kept the bar stocked with drink-fixings and barware. One very popular mixed drink was flip, a concoction of beer, liquor and other ingredients, heated with a red hot poker called a loggerhead. The loggerhead was as much a part of the chimney furniture of an old-time New England tavern and farm-house as the bellows or andirons. In all taverns and many hospitable homes it was constantly kept warm in the ashes, ready for speedy heating in a bed of hot coals, to burn a mug of fresh flip for every visitor or passer by. Customized recipes for flip abound, with each inn and private host having a specialty.
“Keep grated Ginger and Nutmeg with a fine dried Lemon Peel rubbed together in a Mortar. To make a quart of Flip: Put the Ale on the Fire to warm, and beat up three or four Eggs with four ounces of moist Sugar, a teaspoonful of grated Nutmeg or Ginger, and a Quartern (1/4 of a gill) of good old Rum or Brandy. When the Ale is near to boil, put it into one pitcher, and the Rum and Eggs, etc., into another: turn it from one Pitcher to another till it is as smooth as cream. To heat plunge in the red hot Loggerhead or Poker. This quantity is styled One Yard of Flannel.”
A modern recipe for flip:
American Colonial Flip
- 2 bottles beer
- 1/2 cup gin, rum, or brandy
- 3 eggs
- 1/4 cup sugar
- grated nutmeg
Heat beer and gin, if desired, but do not boil. Pour into a large pitcher. Beat eggs with sugar until thick and pour into a second pitcher. Gradually add beer mixture to eggs, stirring constantly. Froth by carefully and quickly pouring back and forth between the two pitchers. Pour into mugs. Makes 3-4 (modern) servings.
John Adams said if you spent the evening in a tavern, you found it full of people drinking drams of flip, carousing, and swearing. The old taprooms were certainly cheerful and inviting gathering-places; where mine host sat behind his cagelike counter surrounded by cans and bottles and glasses, jars of whole spices and whole loaves of sugar; where an inspiring row of barrels of New England rum, hard cider, and beer ranged in rivalry at an end of the room, and
“Where dozed a fire of beechen logs that bred
Strange fancies in its embers golden-red,
And nursed the loggerhead, whose hissing dip,
Timed by wise instinct, creamed the bowl of flip.”
Since February is full of presidential birthdays, lets bounce to another popular historical drink – bounce!
Most bounce references and recipes mention Martha Washington’s cherry bounce, which is concocted in household-sized portions:
“Extract the Juice of 20 pounds of well ripend Morrella Cherrys Add to this 10 quarts of Old French brandy and sweeten it with White Sugar to your taste—To 5 Gallons of this mixture add one ounce of Spice Such as Cinnamon, Cloves and Nutmegs of each an Equal quantity Slightly bruis’d and a pint and half of Cherry kernels that have been gently broken in a mortar—After the liquor has fermented let it Stand Close-Stoped for a month or Six weeks—then bottle it remembering to put a lump of Loaf Sugar into each bottle.”
Although cherry bounce is the most popular recipe to come down to us through the years, bounce could be made from any number of fruits such as blackberry, plum. It’s basically what we make as a cordial, using what fruits are at hand, and what liquor you prefer – rum and brandy being the most historically accurate.
Which leads us to our next Colonial beverage – shrub.
To modern eyes it seems almost indistinguishable from bounce, but most shrub recipes add some complexity to the booze + fruit + sugar mixture in the form of vinegar. Sounds kind of gross, but sources both historical and modern claim that the acid/sweet combination is tasty and refreshing. Here is a recipe for a booze-optional shrub, which would be a nice summertime drink mixed with club soda or maybe even tonic water.
- 3tablespoonsSimple Syrup
- 2tablespoonsRaspberry Vinegar (Click for recipe)
- 1 tablespoonbrandy (optional)
- Sparkling water or Prosecco
- Lemon slice
- Mint sprig
Stir simple syrup, raspberry vinegar, and brandy (optional) in a 12-ounce glass. Fill glass halfway with ice. Fill glass with sparkling water or Prosecco. Garnish with a lemon slice and a mint sprig.
Shrub or Bounce
- 2 quarts of brandy
- juice of 5 lemons
- peels of 2 lemons
- 1/2 whole nutmeg
- 3 pints white wine
- 1-1/2 lb. sugar
Place brandy, lemon juice, peels, and nutmeg into a large bottle. Let stand for 3 days. Add wine and sugar. Mix well and strain twice, then rebottle. Definately an officer’s drink, the ingredients are too costly for the enlisted man.
Our ancestors may not have enjoyed the long lifespans that we do now, but they defintely spent their days in a state of perpetual buzz. Seven Trees Farm is always researching the daily life of our forbearers, so stay tuned for more information on topics like syllabub, posset, beverige, and punch. Not only do those ancestral beverages help us get in touch with times past, we can recreate that era in modern times with antique and reproduction glassware.
For more reading about Colonial-American drinking habits and taverns, check out these links -
Stagecoach and Tavern Days, published 1900
Drinking in Colonial America ~ Colonial Williamsburg
Some Colonial-era music courtesy of the Colonial Minstrels
And more historical drink recipes – Missing Drinks
A sales listing for the Sawyer Tavern in Keene, NH, once owned by an ancestor of one of the Seven Trees humans.