July 4 may have come and gone, but the spirit of ’76 can infuse every day of the year — especially inside your glass. Colonial-era Americans may have forged a revolution that changed the world, but they were also enthusiastic drinkers — and the arsenal of proto-cocktails they invented (or adapted) are particularly well-suited for groups.
By the time the War of Independence began, each male over the age of 15 drank the equivalent of several shots a day — up to seven, by some accounts. Some of that was in the form of rum punch, which was served from bowls and tended to foster conversation and camaraderie. (Check out this month’s Tipster, “Summer Sips,” for more on punch and two other communal, colonial-era drinks).
Yet our forefathers concocted a wealth of other simple yet bracing drinks, some of which are sure-fire conversation starters at meetings. Case in point: the Stone-Fence (pictured).
A Stone-Fence is deceptively easy to make, and easier still to drink: A splash of dark rum blended with sparkling hard cider, and (for a modern twist) then garnished with lemon peel. Both rum and hard cider were easy to come by in the Thirteen Colonies, so combining them was probably inevitable; the result, zippy and refreshing. People light up when they learn that the drink was a particular favorite of Vermont revolutionary Ethan Allen, who knocked them back with his men in the hours before they took Fort Ticonderoga. (Another relevant factoid: John Adams enjoyed a tankard of hard cider with his breakfast).
This colonial-era trivia delighted some of the attendees at this year’s Mensa Annual Gathering in Boston, where I spoke earlier this month. Though I trembled in my boots at the idea of a Mensa-driven q&a, the presentation went off without a hitch — and a handful of Mensa attendees and I trekked to their roomy “hospitality” ballroom afterward for an informal round of Stone-Fences sipped from paper cups. The unusual drinks seemed to get their Thursday night off to a cheery start.
The bottom line: People love a twist. Especially a lemon twist delivered in a drink with a backstory. Stone-Fences deliver on both counts.
A Modern Stone-Fence
Adapted from Forgotten Drinks of Colonial New England: From Flips and Rattle-Skulls to Switchel and Spruce Beer.
2 ounces dark rum
Sparkling hard cider (preferably one with residual sweetness)
Citrus bitters (optional)
Lemon wedges or twists, for garnish
Fill a tall Collins glass with ice. Pour in rum, then top with cider and a dash of bitters. Stir gently to combine. Garnish with lemon, and serve.
(Drink can be mixed and served from pitchers; simply scale up amounts).