President's Day was established in 1885 to celebrate the birth of the USA's first President, George Washington.
It makes sense considering Washington's many accomplishments, all of which make him one of the most important figures in our country's history.
But Derek and I like to focus on some of his other accomplishments, mainly those involving booze, so without further ado, here's 10 great moments in Drunken History that celebrate George Washington on President's Day!
1. George Washington won his first election because of booze!
As a young and upcoming 23 year old, Washington ran for the Virginia House of Burgesses in 1755. Unfortunately he lost...by 40 votes. He apparently made no attempt to court the drinkers of the day, which was pretty much everyone. In fact, he even wrote a letter to the Governor complaining that TAVERNS WERE A NUISANCE! WTF George!
But he learned his lesson and made it right. When he ran again for office in 1758 he "treated" voters to an immense amount of booze while campaigning and at the voting booth. Records say he bought them 28 gallons of rum, 50 gallons of rum punch, 34 gallons of wine, 46 gallons of beer, and two gallons of cider. That amounted to 1/2 gallon of booze for every voter.
He won the election with 331 votes and never lost another one again!
2. George Washington loved beer so much he wrote his own recipe!
George Washington loved beer. He was especially fond of the British porter (though he refused to buy British beer). He always kept an ample supply at Mt. Vernon and insisted on it as a daily staple.
But he was fickle. Not just any beer would do, not even any particular porter, but only a beer of his liking. To this end he developed his own recipe for his preferred beer, which he called a "Small Beer". His hand-written recipe is to the right, but here it is verbatim:
"Take a large Siffer [Sifter] full of Bran Hops to your Taste. -- Boil these 3 hours then strain out 30 Gall[ons] into a cooler put in 3 Gall[ons] Molasses while the Beer is Scalding hot or rather draw the Melasses into the cooler & St[r]ain the Beer on it while boiling Hot. let this stand till it is little more than Blood warm then put in a quart of Yea[s]t if the Weather is very Cold cover it over with a Blank[et] & let it Work in the Cooler 24 hours then put it into the Cask -- leave the bung open till it is almost don[e] Working -- Bottle it that day Week it was Brewed."
3. George Washington demanded and got the rum of his choice for his inauguration!
As part of the effort to stymie the British, the Continental Congress declared most British imports and products illegal and off-limits. This included rum from other British colonies.
The problem was that what people considered the best rum on the planet was from Barbados in the Caribbean, a very British colony. And though at the time the colonies and villages around New England were some of the centers of rum production in America, Washington apparently didn't feel they were acceptable for an event as gravitas as his Presidential Inauguration.
So, being the badass that he was, Washington demanded a barrel of Barbado rum (illegal) for his celebration, and you know what? He got it.
4. George Washington said Soynara to the British in a bar!
The Revolutionary War was at its end, everyone was tired. What better place to recieve the conduct official business for a new nation than at a bar? Mabie's Inn in Tappan, New York to be exact (now the Old '76 House).
On April 19, 1783, General George Washington of the American Colonials sat down with British officials to recieve their official plans to evacuate New York City and put the American colonies behind them.
Incidentally, on this occasion was the first time that the British recognized the USA as a soveriegn nation. So we were also officially recognized for the first time in a bar (fitting, really..).
5. George Washington celebrated the end of the Revolution in a bar!
Apparently it took awhile for the British to get their shit together, because they didn't leave until November, 1783. But when they did, Washington was there. He rode into the city in a military parade full of pomp and circumstance as befitting the victorious general.
He stopped for a drink at the Bull's Head Tavern in the Bowery (apparently drinking some beer from atop his horse), then went on. Their destination? Sam Fraunces' Tavern in lower Manhattan.
There Washington, his generals, Governor Clinton and other dignitaries celebrated with rum, beer, wine and God knows what else. THAT'S how to end a war!
6. George Washington said adios to his officers...in a bar!
You're probably starting to see a theme here, right?
Anyway, the date is December 4, 1783 and the war had just ended. Washington was tired. He was tired of war, of leading, and of bickering with politicians about things like pay and supplies. So he was done.
He summoned his top officers to the same bar he just partied at the previous week - Sam Fraunces' Tavern - and made a brief, informal speech to them in the Long Room in the second floor.
Drinks weren't really on their minds at the time (they did drink some wine, but that's about it), because it was a pretty serious occasion. But just the fact that Washington chose a bar for such an event speaks volumes about him!
7. George Washington demanded whiskey rations from Congress!
In 1777 Washington was being frustrated at two fronts, on the one by the British army but on the other by the Continental Congress, which seemed completely inept at supplying his troops.
In part of his requests for food, clothing, and arms was a request for rum or whiskey rations for his men. Further, he also suggested that Congress erect "Public Distilleries" specifically for the use by the Army, saying that "The benefits arising from moderate use of Liquor, have been experienced in All Armies, and are not to be disputed !!”
This was actually par for the course for Washington though. While conducting military campaigns during the French and Indian War he gave the following General Order:
“And, as an encouragement to them to behave well, and to attend diligently to their
Duty, the Colonel [Washington] promises to give them, so long as they deserve it, four
gallons of rum, made into punch, every day.”
8. George Washington gave his men rum before his officers!
During the winter of 1778-1779, conditions during the Revolutionary War were at their worst. Washington and his 10,000 troops were forced to retreat from Philadelphia as the British arrived, but the cold was upon them and they had to make camp somewhere.
Washington chose a spot along the Schuylkill River called Valley Forge.
Things pretty much sucked there. Provisions were low, soldiers were freezing from lack of winter clothing, and people were generally pissed off at the situation.
To boost morale Washington made the keen choice to make sure everyone got a daily rum ration. And to further endear himself to his men, he gave the order that soldiers were to be provided their rations before officers.
Now THAT'S a guy to fight for!
9. George Washington could handle A LOT of booze!
George Washington was a big guy, not just for his time but for contemporary times too. When the average man stood at 5'8", Washington was about 6'4" tall.
There are numerous accounts of his drinking ability - and remember that they pretty much drank all damned day long back then - but to demonstrate how much he could consume, take his own personal eggnog recipe.
While most recipes call for rum, Washington's included Brandy, Rye Whiskey, Rum, AND Sherry. There wasn't really anything left that they made he didn't include!
10. George Washington was America's first BIG whiskey distiller!
This is perhaps the coolest of all. When Washington retired as President of the United States (I say "retired" because he chose not to be president again, though pretty much everyone wanted him to be), he still had to feed himself.
His home at Mount Vernon, Virginia was a working farm, and he sold produce, crops and whatever else he could to make a buck.
Then he started making whiskey. A lot of whiskey.
It turns out his farm manager was a smart Scot named James Anderson. And, being the good Scot that he was, he knew distilling. At his urging, Washington created his own distilling operation and went about making an unaged Rye whiskey in 1797.
By 1799 he had distilled an amazing 11,000 gallons of whiskey!
Hail to the Chief and enjoy this President's Day!