In Your Cups: Historic drinking, pretty grape places, top liquors, and morning dew

Virginians sure do (and did) love to drink, perhaps it’s because our grapes don’t grow in ugly places?

Photo by: T. Kristensen

Virginians’ affinity for spirits stretches back beyond the days of the founding mothers and fathers. In writing of the drinking habits of colonists in the Chesapeake, VCU history professor Sarah Hand Meacham said, “Alcoholic beverages provided much-needed calories, were thought to prevent scurvy …, offered a respite from water that was infected by disease and mosquito larvae, supplied some relief from illness, dulled fear, and helped to foster a sense of community.”

In Every Home a Distillery, Meacham enumerated the colonists’ excuses for drinking, including royal holidays, court days, militia training, elections, horse races, auctions, funerals, weddings, harvest, and holidays. In fact, she said, “Shopkeepers gave drinks to entice potential customers,” such as Williamsburg merchant Joseph Scriviner, “who regularly provided his customers with complimentary alcoholic beverages.”

Likewise, she said, “Candidates standing for elections similarly provided alcoholic beverages to supporters.” That’s what many of us may need to cast a ballot this November.

In summary, Meacham said, “It is clear that colonists, white and black, male and female, drank copiously.”

Some things never change.

The Virginia ABC recently released their list of top-selling liquors in the commonwealth during the past fiscal year. Gross sales rose nearly six percent from the previous fiscal year to $846,463,506. Top spot went to Jack Daniel’s 7 Black Tennessee whiskey, at $26.9 million in sales, followed by last year’s second-best seller, Smirnoff 80 domestic vodka.

Moving up on the list was Fireball Cinnamon, which climbed from fifth place to third. Jim Beam straight bourbon dropped to fifth place, behind Hennessy VS cognac/Armagnac in fourth.

Hennessy VS also realized the greatest sales growth, climbing almost 24 percent over the previous year. Other list climbers included Tito’s Handmade Vodka, jumping from #21 to #13 (after moving from #40 in 2013) and Woodford Reserve, from #43 to #37. Newcomers to the list were Evan Williams Black (#20), Crown Royal Regal Apple (#39) and Gentleman Jack (#50).

The top-50 list includes 16 brands of vodka, 15 whiskies, five cordials, four rums, three gins, three tequilas, two brandies and two cognac/armagnacs.

Check out the ABC website to see where your favorite (non-Virginia) spirit falls on the list.

Grapes don’t grow in ugly places

Assuming the rain lets up after this record-breaking-wet month of May, the time for vineyard voyages has arrived. Two wineries just west of Charlottesville, less than 90 minutes from Short Pump, offer Memorial Day weekend entertainment sufficient to cease our “wining.”

Music after hours

The view from Afton Mountain Vineyards inspired their tagline, “Grapes don’t grow in ugly places.” Soak in the mountains, sip the wines and swing to live music at Afton After Hours on May 28, 6:00 – 8:30 PM.

Though food trucks will be serving, picnics are also welcome, with chairs and blankets encouraged. Wine will be available (for bottle purchase only).

As the Afton After Hours event listing declares, “Live music by Eli Cook and Release of the Rosé!” I’m assuming that the first is the band and the second is a recently bottled wine.

Kings & polo ponies.

Every Sunday from Memorial Day weekend through mid-October at King Family Vineyards, weather and field conditions permitting, polo players on horseback chase a white ball across a well-groomed field while spectators watch from, hopefully, a safe distance.

Vineyards and a winery were an afterthought to the King family, David and Ellen King. When they moved from Houston, Texas in 1995, flat ground for a polo field to accommodate David’s passion for the sport was the top priority. Vineyards came next, followed by the winery.

Visitors may park their vehicles tailgate style around the field or watch from the winery parking lot or patio, toting chairs, blankets, umbrellas and tents. A King Family golf cart circles the field during the match so fans can refill on wine or bottled water without missing a hoofbeat.

National Wine Day

Can’t wait till Memorial Day weekend to celebrate wine? Capital Ale House in Midlothian and their neighbor, Artisans Wine and Homebrew, are teaming up to toast National Wine Day on May 25. The event, A Taste of Williamsburg, presents a pairing of Williamsburg Winery varietals with cheese and toss in a home winemaking demonstration on the side.
Tickets are $7 in advance, available at Capital Ale House in Midlothian, and $10 at the door.

Blue Bee Cider – Memorial Day Tailgate

On Memorial Day, Blue Bee Cider presents their annual tailgate party. Guests are invited to bring grills, grill foods and snacks to pair with Blue Bee ciders, plus tailgating games, children and pets.

Recipe of the week

This week’s recipe comes from Paul Blumer at The Rogue Gentleman, featuring local James River Distillery’s Øster Vit.

Morning Dew

  • 1.25 oz James River Øster Vit
  • .75 oz Barr Hill gin
  • .25 oz St. Elder elderflower liqueur
  • .25 oz Atxa Bianco vermouth
  • 2 dashes El Guapo Love Potion No. 9

ToolsMixing glass, jigger, ice, barspoon, strainer
Glass — Coupe
Ice — None
M.o.P — Stir and strain
Garnish — Cherry

Stir, strain and enjoy, then head out to memorialize the weekend by exploring Richmond’s craft beverage scene.

  • error

    Report an error

Robby Robot

There are no reader comments. Add yours.