Drink Like It's 1776: July 4 Cocktails

America's Founders loved to drink. During Colonial times, sanitation was not great and water sources were often not potable. For hydration, it was common for folks to drink madeira, port, beer, or rum fairly consistently throughout the day. Alcohol, in fact, was thought to cure illness, provide strength, and warm the body. By the end of the eighteenth century, U.S. per capita alcohol consumption was in the neighborhood of about 7 gallons per person (today it's more like 2).

All this is to say that we at Downtime Cocktails think the best way to toast the Founders who established our great nation is to...well, toast them. Raise a glass or two and celebrate our independence.

Here are a few throwback-style recipes that may help to evoke that great old Colonial feeling of 1776.

George Washington: Even though he was the owner of the largest whiskey distillery in the United States when he died, the Father of Our Country wasn't considered a big drinker. He was fond of porter, madeira, wine, and strong rum punches, but, in general, the General was not known to drink very much.

One of the few cocktails he was known to favor was called a cherry bounce, which is a brandy-based drink that became very popular in the later eighteenth century. This recipe comes straight from the Mount Vernon Society and is recognized as the official Washington Cherry Bounce. Of course, we suggest amending it a bit by subbing in 2 cups of Batch 22 for half the brandy.

Washington's Cherry Bounce (makes 3 quarts)

  • 10 to 11 pounds fresh sour cherries, preferably Morello, or 3 (1-pound, 9-ounce) jars preserved Morello cherries
  • 4 cups brandy (or 2 cups Batch 22, 2 cups brandy)
  • 3 cups sugar, plus more as needed
  • 2 cinnamon sticks, broken into pieces
  • 2 to 3 whole cloves
  • 1 (1/4-inch) piece fresh whole nutmeg
  1. Pit the cherries, cut them in half, and put them in a large bowl. Using a potato masher, carefully mash the fruit to extract as much juice as possible. Strain the juice through a large fine-mesh strainer, pressing the fruit with a sturdy spoon. (You should have about 8 cups.) Reserve the mashed cherries in the freezer or refrigerator for later use. If using jarred cherries, drain the fruit and set the juice aside before halving and mashing the cherries. Add any pressed juice to the reserved jarred juice.
  2. In a lidded 1-gallon glass jar, combine the juice with the brandy and sugar, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Cover with the lid, and set aside in the refrigerator for 24 hours, occasionally stirring or carefully shaking the jar.
  3. Bring 2 cups of the juice to a simmer over medium heat. Taste the sweetened juice and add more sugar, if desired. Stir in the cinnamon sticks, cloves, and nutmeg, then cover and simmer for about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool at room temperature. Strain, and discard the spices.
  4. Stir the spiced juice back into the 1-gallon glass jar with the reserved sweetened juice. Cover loosely with the lid, and set aside for at least 2 weeks before serving, occasionally shaking the jar with care.
  5. Serve at room temperature in small cordial or wine glasses. Store the remaining cherry bounce in the refrigerator.

Flip for the Fourth
One of the most popular drinks for American colonists was called a flip. Another favorite of George Washington's, the flip was commonly made of mulled ale as a base to which rum or brandy was added, along with eggs, and molasses. That mixture was then stirred to a warm, caramelized froth with a hot poker.
There are many variations of the flip that later became popular in the 1800s, including the sherry flip, the less boozy alternative to eggnog.
The flip is a versatile format for many different spirits, including sherry, brandy, cognac, whiskey, and bourbon. Here's a recipe for a bourbon flip that makes a light, creamy cocktail with a satisfying boozy finish. Note: A classic flip contains raw whole egg (as does a classic eggnog).

Boozy Bourbon Flip

  • 2 oz. good bourbon (we love Fierce & Kind)
  • 1 oz. simple syrup (see note for homemade)
  • 1 large egg
  • 3 to 4 ice cubes
  • freshly grated (or ground) nutmeg for garnish


  1. In a cocktail shaker with ice, combine the bourbon, simple syrup, and egg.
  2. Shake vigorously (about 1-2 minutes) to chill and create a good foam and body with the egg.
  3. Strain into a coupe or champagne glass and top with freshly grated nutmeg. Serve immediately.

For simple syrup, combine equal parts water and sugar in a saucepan. Bring to a low simmer and stir until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature before using.

Thomas Jefferson, Oenophile
Thomas Jefferson is credited with singlehandedly raising America’s understanding of viniculture and appreciation of wine as a fine beverage. In addition to being one of our country's most influential statesmen, Jefferson also acted as the “official wine advisor” to Washington, Madison, and Monroe. He allocated 200 acres of his Monticello estate to viticultural experimentation and was one of the first people in the United States to grow French varietals.

As president, Jefferson imported more than 20,000 bottles of French Bordeaux (he had previously been the U.S. ambassador to France, so he knew what he liked!) and was the first person to stock the White House with wine (he loved Chateau Margaux Bordeaux and Chateau D'yquem Sauternes; he reportedly spent a third of his salary on French wine during his first year).

This recipe combines white wine with a few more herbal components to create a light, crisp, and complex martini-like cocktail. We use Lillet (a white wine aperitif) but you could substitute any non-oaked white wine (sauvignon blanc or similar) or you could go richer and more honey-like by using a Sauternes, which would make TJ very happy.

Jefferson's Vin Cocktail

Shake over ice:

  • 1.5 oz. Batch 22 Classic Gold aquavit
  • 1 oz. Lillet
  • 1 oz. Suze
  • 0.5 oz. Rosemary syrup
  • 0.5 oz. Giffard Pampelmousse
  1. Strain into large Martini glass
  2. Add tonic to fill
  3. Garnish with grapefruit peel

Ben Franklin, Innovator
Stewed. Bowz'd. In the Sudds. Nimtopsical. Benjamin Franklin coined more than two dozen terms for being drunk. Yet, he was no fan of overindulgence. He did love food and drink, but had an outright disdain for drunkenness, which he called a "terrible evil." Franklin is famous for his experiments and inventions—discovering electricity, inventing bifocals, fireplace stoves, swim fins, and various instruments among other things—he was also fond of inventing in the kitchen.
This recipe, based on a milk punch Franklin was known to have loved, uses Batch 22 in conjunction with brandy (the original recipe was all brandy). Franklin may have discovered electricity, but it would be another 160 years or so until the first electric refrigerator was invented. Most people enjoy this cocktail well chilled, but Franklin always had his served warm.

Electric Milk Punch (makes 15-20 servings)

  • 3 cups brandy
  • 3 cups Batch 22
  • 11 lemons
  • 4 cups water
  • 0.75 cups sugar
  • 1 nutmeg
  • 3 cups whole milk


  1. Remove peel from the lemons with a vegetable peeler, taking care to remove only the yellow part of the rind (not too much pith). Add the lemon peel to the brandy and steep for 24 hours.
  2. Juice the lemons and reserve 2 cups of lemon juice (about 5 or 6 lemons) in the refrigerator.
  3. After 24 hours at room temperature, strain the brandy and discard the lemon peel.
  4. Add the lemon juice, water, sugar and freshly grated nutmeg to the brandy and stir well.
  5. Heat the milk in a large pot over medium heat, taking care not to burn or scorch it. When the milk is hot, remove from heat and slowly stir in the brandy mixture. Curds will form immediately. Let sit for 5 minutes, then gently stir.
  6. Let sit for another 20 minutes, stir gently, then allow mixture to sit for 1 1/2 hours, undisturbed.
  7. Strain the mixture through a nut milk bag and then again through a coffee filter. Refrigerate until well chillled and pour into a rocks glass. Top with grated nutmeg.

Dolley Madison, America's Favorite First Lady
The Whiskey Sour is widely considered to be the first "real" cocktail ever created. One of the drink's earliest adopters was Dolley Madison, who was one of America's most beloved first ladies. Mrs. Madison had a far-reaching reputation as an enthusiastic socializer and a great hostess. Dolley hosted many grand parties in the White House from 1809 to 1817 (she also played hostess for many of President Jefferson's official functions) and was reputed to favor the Whiskey Sour as her go-to cocktail for entertaining. Here's our version of her classic Whiskey Sour, which simply cuts the bourbon component with half aquavit.

Dolley Madison's Whiskey Sour 22

In a shaker over ice combine:

  • 2 oz. Batch 22
  • 2 oz bourbon
  • 1.5 oz fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tsp fine sugar

Strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with a cherry.