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What Did the Founding Fathers Eat and Drink as They Started a Revolution?

While the members of the second Continental Congress didn't celebrate American independence with picnics or backyard grilling the way we do today, they did their share of celebrating. Smithsonian takes a look at the food that was available to the Founding Fathers in Philadelphia at the time, but the more interesting subject was what -and how much- they drank. They drank a lot of alcohol. George Washington was known for spending prodigiously on drinks for everyone, while Thomas Jefferson worked to produce better wine. Benjamin Franklin was the most famous drinker of the bunch, because he wrote about his appreciation of alcohol. Steven Grasse and Reverend Michael Alan, who produced a book on colonial drinking, tell us more.   

Benjamin Franklin was especially unabashed about his love of “the cups.” Though Grasse writes that he was careful to advise temperance, he regularly enjoyed wine and what some might argue were early iterations of craft cocktails. His favorite, according to Alan, was milk punch, a three-ingredient brandy-based sip whose two non-alcoholic components–milk and lemon juice–washed and refined its third. Another Franklin foodie badge is his “Drinkers’ Dictionary,” a compendium of Colonial slang describing the state of drunkenness. Initially printed in 1737 in the Pennsylvania Gazette, its publication made Franklin one of America’s first food and drink writers.

Then there was Alexander Hamilton, who reportedly couldn't hold his liquor as well as the others. Read about the food and drink of the Founding Fathers at Smithsonian.


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“Systems like the post office, libraries, even courthouses, were just being put into place,” explains Alan. “Taverns offered all of these services plus a good beer buzz.”

Note to self: begin serving alcohol at my library.
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