Friday, May 26, 2006

Friday Happy Hour, Virginia Commemorative Edition

Next week we are moving to Boston, so we thought that we should drink to DC/Virginia before we ride off and never look back. Virginia has a long history of whiskey, like the rest of the south, even to the point that the land that would become Kentucky, home of bourbon, was part of Virginia in colonial times. Sadly, we have only found two active distilleries in the Old Dominion. (George Washington's collapsed long ago.) One makes "legal moonshine" (question: is it moonshine if it is legal?), a young, unaged 100-proof corn whiskey called Virginia Lightning. Ouch. The other is the Virginia Gentleman, a spicy-sweet bourbon-style whiskey. We're heading over to the liquor store on the lunch break to pick some up, since it is supposed to be cheap but tasty.

But moonshine? Howdya drink that? We've never tried, but we suggest Chatham Artillery Punch. According to Savannah (Georgia now, not Virginia) legend, when Geo. Washington visited the city in 1792, the nearby artillery company saluted him and threw a ball in his honor. The ladies of the group made a punch with wine and fruit juice that tasted good but lacked kick, so every officer in the company tipped in his flask as he walked by the punchbowl. Later, when Sherman completed his march across Georgia, the citizens of Savannah got him drunk on the same recipe, saving their city in the process. In that Midnight in Savannah movie, someone describes it as "three parts fruit and seven parts liquor, whatever is available on both counts," but the traditional recipe has leaked out from the city of cotillions and midnight voodoo:

For 100 People (Or Ten Admirals)

  • 1-1/2 gallons Catawba Wine
  • 1-1/2 quarts Whiskey
  • 1/2 gallon Rum
  • 1/2 pint Benedictine
  • 1 quart Gin
  • 1 quart Brandy
  • 1-1/2 gallons strong tea
  • 2-1/2 pounds brown sugar
  • Juice 1-1/2 dozen oranges
  • Juice 1-1/2 dozen lemons
Mix all the above and let sit at least 48 hours. To serve, place a large block of ice in the bottom of a punchbowl and pour in punch. Add one bottle of champagne and stir gently.

Some purists say that the wine used should be madeira, not the catawba wine of the South Carolina woods. And there is nothing wrong with adding pineapples and cherries to the mix, either. The stuff is nearly 80-proof and the champagne helps get it in your veins faster, so we'll see you next week when you are conscious again.

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