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Brandy History

Happy Thanksgiving!

I believe the most historically appropriate spirits to enjoy on Thanksgiving are rye whiskey and applejack/apple brandy. If you’re a stickler for historical accuracy, both spirits should be unaged, as was the style of Colonial America.

I don’t have any white lightning on hand, so I’m cheating a bit and having a taste of Laird’s Old Apple Brandy, 7 1/2 years old. Laird & Company is the oldest registered distillery in the United States, licensed in 1780 although in business for longer than that.

Before the Revolution, George Washington, who ran a small distillery at Mount Vernon, wrote to the Laird’s and asked for their applejack recipe, which they shared with him. All of Laird’s apples are grown here in Virginia — a couple million pounds a year — so Washington presumably had plenty of raw materials for his efforts.

The Pilgrims, although quite strict in many practices, had no problem with alcohol. While aboard the Mayflower they were allocated a gallon of beer per person per day. As a result, they were half in the bag most of the time. Including the kids! Supposedly they landed at Plymouth Rock* in Massachusetts, rather than their approved destination of Northern Virginia, because they were out of beer.

So drink up if you’re of a mind to do so. And Happy Thanksgiving!

*The story of Plymouth Rock is almost certainly fiction.