Eating History: Historic Drinks That’ll Turn Up Your July 4 Party

Modern mixology has nothing on a drink that's literally called "What," and features raisins and potatoes.

Photo: Jaya Saxena

Photo: Jaya Saxena

Welcome to “Eating History,” a series in which Jaya Saxena of the New-York Historical Society mines the vast archives of the museum and library in search of vintage images and ephemera that offer a look into how New Yorkers used to dine. Follow the museum @NYHistory for more.

Independence Day is obviously an excuse to don your favorite flag-patterned clothing, throw a slab of animal on the grill, and booze until the fireworks are done. But what better way to drink than like your forefathers? We’ve rounded up some beverage recipes from documents found in the New-York Historical Society’s Library collections for you to make this holiday—or to brew in time for next year.

Daiquiri

oldcocktails daiquiri Eating History: Historic Drinks Thatll Turn Up Your July 4 Party

This recipe from a cookbook dated “not after 1947″ yields a pretty standard daiquiri, though the standard these days is to use simple syrup instead of straight sugar.

Planter’s Punch

Nowadays, this drink contains grenadine, pineapple juice, and bitters. But the 19th (or early 20th) century was a simpler time, and the recipe called only for rum, lime juice, sugar, and ginger ale served over crushed ice—a pretty refreshing summer drink, to be honest. Since the more complicated version seems to have won the “Planter’s Punch” title, what should we call this?

“What”

oldcocktails what Eating History: Historic Drinks Thatll Turn Up Your July 4 Party

That’s actually what the drink is called—I’m not making it up. I’m imagining the Lil’ Jon of the 1920s came up with this beverage when Prohibition was keeping him down. Just take a look at how ridiculous this beverage, found in the recipe book of Isabella Vache Cox, is:

  • 1lb wheat in kernel
  • 4lbs granulated sugar
  • 1lb raisins
  • 1 raw potato (cut in large pieces) do not peel
  • 1 large grapefruit (ditto) eliminate seeds
  • 1 orange

Use stone crock. Pour over above 1 gallon boiling water. When cool at 1 cake yeast dissolved in 1 teaspoon water. Let stand 28 days, stirring night + morning. Strain-filter, bottle.

A Wholesome Drink

oldcocktails  wholesomedrink Eating History: Historic Drinks Thatll Turn Up Your July 4 Party

This recipe was found in the Agricultural almanac, for the year of our Lord 1868; … : Carefully calculated for the meridian of Pennsylvania and the adjoining statesand it sounds like a refreshing, jacked-up ginger beer. I’m not entirely sure where you’d find tartaric acid nowadays, but I bet there’s some food-nerd store out there where you can pick up a “drachm” or two.

Clearly, our forefathers knew how to enjoy themselves, so it’s only right that we keep up the American tradition of mixing some delicious—and super weird—cocktails.

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