The Mann family had the first licensed distillery in Miami County, Ohio (prior to 1809) and also a owned a tavern in Fort Wayne, Indiana circa 1810. This enterprise allowed them to provide product for their Fort Wayne business and accumulate cash while living in the midst of a barter society. One might assume that it was no coincidence that they were also ranking officers in the Miami County Militia. Ohio’s county militia elections were decided by popular vote….
This prompted my research concerning alcohol consumption of yesteryear. I did some online research via several sites. The Temperance Guide I have included within this post was first published in 1784 by by none other than Dr. Benjamin Rush, in an article called “An Inquiry into the Effects of Spirituous Liquors on the Human Body and the Mind”.
Colonial Americans drank roughly three times as much alcohol as modern-day Americans. Whiskey was a typical lunchtime tipple, ale accompanied supper and the day ended with a nightcap. Continuous indulgence helped Colonials built up a tolerance for alcohol. Most Americans in 1790 consumed an average 5.8 gallons of pure alcohol a year. Alcohol was served at mealtimes and throughout the day. Social events, such as weddings and funerals, generally had alcohol on hand.
Reasons to justify early drinking habits included: poor or polluted water supplies, a belief in alcohol's nourishing and medicinal properties, and generally, an English mindset that declared that water was bad for a person's health. Given the sanitary conditions of the day, this was likely accurate. Beer consumption was seen as a healthy substitute for water.
In the early 1800’s, many people believed it was healthier to drink lukewarm alcohol during hot weather rather than drink cold water. Signs were sometimes displayed at public wells warning individuals of the dangers of cold water during the summer. Settlers believed that when a person sweated, heat was conducted from the inside of the body, and so the stomach needed warmth. Warmth could be provided by alcohol.
Small beer, a low alcohol content (typically 1%) beer, was brewed for children, servants, and general family consumption. Small beer was also available at taverns because its low alcohol content allowed people to drink several glasses without becoming intoxicated. Small beer, by the barrel, cost half the price of a barrel of strong beer.
Settlement of the Midwest “corn belt” created large new supplies of corn, which was cheaper and more profitable to convert into whiskey than it was to transport great distances without spoiling. Western farmers could make no profit shipping corn overland to eastern markets, so they distilled corn into ‘liquid assets. By the 1820s, whiskey sold for twenty-five cents a gallon, making it cheaper than beer, wine, coffee, tea, or milk.
Taverns were the center of civic life. The first businesses established on the frontier were often simple taverns located along trails and roads to take care of the needs of travelers. A tradition of the time dictated that a drink be had at every halt in a journey. The Newcom Tavern in Dayton, Ohio and the Overfield Tavern in Troy, Ohio are great examples of early taverns that still exist and are open to visitors.
For hundreds of years, our English ancestors heartily consumed beer and ale. Rum was the most popular alcoholic colonial drink. Here are some drink recipes from the colonial period… I take no responsibility for anyone attempting these concoctions today, and urge you to take the Temperance Guide seriously….
Flip (George Washington’s favorite beverage)
The term was first used in 1695 to describe a mixture of beer, rum, and sugar, heated with a red-hot iron ("Thus we live at sea; eat biscuit, and drink flip"). The iron caused the drink to froth, and this frothing (or "flipping") engendered the name. Over time, eggs were added and the proportion of sugar increased, the beer was eliminated, and the drink ceased to be served hot.
A Shrub is a fruit liqueur that was popular in 17th and 18th century England, typically made with rum or brandy, and mixed with sugar and the juice or rinds of citrus fruit.
This cocktail is is a mix of apple cider, herbs and spices and your favorite spirit. American whiskeys like bourbon and rye are natural pairings with cider.
We encourage you to visit and support the local gems of the Miami Valley…. and learn more about life on the frontier....
The Johnston Farm & Indian Agency
The Overfield Tavern
The Newcom Tavern
Our line of descent from Germany to present day is as follows: