A prevelance of spirits
That the recorded provisions of the Mayflower showed more beer than water reflects the uncertainty of the water purity in England and, in fact, throughout Europe of the time. Rivers and streams were used to dispose of all the sewage from both industry and inhabitants. This tradition of mistrust continued in the Colonies as settlers began to brew their own beers and ale using natural yeasts, along with imported hop seeds. These settlers also made wines from fruits, herbs and flowers —and French settlers planted and cultivated grapevines in order to produce wine.
By the mid-1600s, English colonies developed trading ties with the British islands in the Caribbean, allowing rum to be imported. Because this imported finished product commanded such a high price, distilleries were established from Massachusetts to the Carolina to lower the cost by utilizing imported molasses to accommodate the needs of the colonies. Even in those days, rum and alcohol were viewed in a positive light, even though its abuse was condemned both by the authorities and the clergy.
And alcohol got even cheaper, thanks to the first grain plant to be domesticated by the indigenous peoples of Mexico around 10,000 years ago, We would not recognize the early, smaller maize plants that yielded a single small cob per plant. (The custom of planting of the three sisters, maize, legumes and squash has sustained and outlived the many indigenous societies of Mexico, Central and South America.) In any event, corn became the go-to crop planted by the settlers as the mid-west was opened up, before and after the American Civil War. And since getting crops to market by the expanding railways was an expensive proposition, creating a value-added product, corn whisky, became the obvious play.
So, by the mid-19th century, Americans had developed a renowned drinking reputation. Many European visitors commented on the prevalence of wine, spirits and beer in the fabric of American society. This excess gave rise to a militant Temperance movement, and eventually to Prohibition. By the late 1890s, it was customary to enjoy a liberal libation for the midmorning and other breaks throughout the day that was provided by the employer—regardless of profession.
Today, the average consumption of alcohol in Canada and the United States is quite modest, compared with the average of yesteryears.
THIS WEEK’S PICK
I just opened a bottle of the Huff Estates 2014 Pinot Noir Reserve, and let it breathe before pouring a glass of this garnet-hued wine.
This wine invites excitement as you encounter spices, demerara sugar, deli, and a kiss of chocolate cranberry and sour cherry. The palate will not disappoint: the cherry and chocolate are a delightful mouthful. It is well-structured with acids that prolong the mouth feel. It is is available for purchase for $35 at the winery located on County Rd. 1.
This Pinot Noir brings forth the unique quality of County-grown fruit, and will be a delightful companion wine to so many tasty dishes. Kudos to Frederick for crafting this treat!