I was initially drawn to check out this book by its title alone. Being both a history buff and a student of spirits, I saw an opportunity to explore both our nation’s history from the colonial period and to learn about what our founding fathers and early colonists enjoyed imbibing. Until recently, not much had been written about the history of spirits in America, and while most of us with a limited knowledge of early spirits history know that the Pilgrims stopped in Plymouth instead of Virginia because they were almost out of beer, or that George Washington used to use chicken as an ingredient in his homebrewed beer, little more is known by the average amateur historian.

Both of the aforementioned historical tidbits are contained in this book, but it goes several steps beyond, by not only describing the types of alcohol the early Americans made, but providing recipes so we can recreate facsimiles using modern day equipment and ingredients. More than 50 centuries-old folk recipes are provided which you can follow to recreate in your bar or kitchen.

This 224-page historical tome runs across a rough timeline of 1600 through 1776 and shows how the European settlers used ingenuity born of necessity in devising techniques and adapting the use of largely untested materials that differed from the ones they were used to using in the Old World.

Some interesting tidbits I gleaned from reading this book include: Martha Washington’s recipe for Cherry Bounce a brandy-based drink; Benjamin Franklin’s Drinkers Dictionary, where he published at least 200 synonyms for getting drunk; details of Thomas Jefferson’s collection of 20,000 red wines from all over the globe; William Penn and the Quakers fear of drinking unpurified water, due to health concerns, leading them to drink beer; John Smith and the early settlers at Plymouth Rock learning how to ferment alcohol from corn, as taught to them by Native Americans; and that John Adams, who lived to be 90 years old, preferred hard cider and drank a tankard of the stuff every morning.

The author, Steven Grasse, is a renaissance brand maker whose influence has made Hendrick’s Gin, Art in the Age spirits, Narragansett beer, Sailor Jerry Rum and Tamworth Distillery darlings of the contemporary cocktail movement.

For a short trailer touting the book, visit http://allagesproductions.com/colonial-spirits.

COLONIAL SPIRITS: A Toast to Our Drunken History , By Steven Grasse , Website: www.colonialspiritsbook.com