Return to Content

(Really) Old-Time Cocktails of New England

(Really) Old-Time Cocktails of New England
5 votes, 3.80 avg. rating (76% score)
Print Friendly

Here’s how author Corin Hirsch describes the daily drinking habits of intemperate early New Englanders in her new book, The Forgotten Drinks of Colonial New England (The History Press):

“…mugs of cider at breakfast, 11:00 a.m. drams of rum, Mimbos and Rattle-Skulls and flips knocked back one after the other in an alarming stream…European settlers practically swam in a sea of booze from breakfast ’til bedtime.”

These habits were brought forth from England, where water was considered a drink of last resort. The 16th-century British dietician Andrew Boorde voiced the common wisdom of the time when he said, “water is not wholesome solely by itself for an Englishman…. If any man do use to drink water with wine, let it be purely strained, and then [boil] it; and after it be cold, let him put it to his wine.”

Colonial New Englanders made their beverages with the materials on hand: apples, honey, sugar, molasses, wild berries, and hops. Hirsch describes the common early drinks of the time, including hard cider (a lighter version called “ciderkin” was often fed to children as a safe alternative to water), rum, apple brandy, beer and ale, fruit wine, and mead.

Hirsch also shares recipes for the kinds of punches and flips that would’ve been drunk in private homes and at Revolutionary-era taverns. And since we remain in the grip of the Winter that Will Not Quit, I thought this might be a nice time to share some historic recipes with you. Cheers!


stone fence cocktail
Photo/Art by Corin Hirsch

Hirsch writes, “As with rum and beer, colonists blended cider into a melange of mixed drinks, such as Stone-Fences (a blend of cider and rum) and syllabub (cider blended with cream, rum, and sugar, although wine could be used in place of cider). They would mull cider with egg yolks, sugar, rum, and spices; they would also make a drink called egg cider by cracking a few eggs into heated cider and sweetening it with molasses or sugar.”

  • Ice
  • 1 1/2 ounces rum
  • Hard cider

Fill a Collins glass with ice, pour in the rum and then top with cider. Stir to combine and serve. Yield: 1 serving

Basic Ale Flip

According to Hirsch, flips were “a mixed drink traditionally made with strong beer, a spash of rum, molasses, spices, and occasionally eggs or cream. The drink was whipped into a froth by plunging a red-hot poker into its midst.” With a nod to the modern cook, she provides an adapted recipe that stays true to the flavors of the original.

  • 8 ounces beer, preferably brown ale or stout
  • 2 pint glasses
  • 2 teaspoons sugar or 1 teaspoon molasses
  • 1 1/2 ounces rum
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • Garnish: nutmeg

Warm the beer in a saucepan over low heat until it just begins to froth and then add to a pint glass with sugar and rum. In the other pint glass, add the beaten egg. Pour the egg into the beer, then pour the entire thing back into the first pint glass and continue to combine until smooth. Top with a grating of nutmeg. Yield: 1 serving

Amy Traverso


Amy Traverso


Senior lifestyle editor Amy Traverso oversees Yankee's Food and Home & Garden departments and contributes articles to the magazine. Amy book, The Apple Lover's Cookbook (W.W. Norton), won an International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP) cookbook award for the category American. Follow !
Updated Thursday, March 6th, 2014

Bring New England Home

Subscribe for 1 year for only $19.97!

A 44% saving!


4 Responses to (Really) Old-Time Cocktails of New England

  1. Meredith March 12, 2014 at 1:13 am #

    I enjoyed your article and will try the “receipts”. They sound like fun. Thanks!

  2. James mcgilvray March 12, 2014 at 3:28 am #

    I have enjoyed Yankee mag. For years

  3. John P Odom March 12, 2014 at 9:23 am #

    Great article!

  4. Stephanie Seacord March 15, 2014 at 12:13 pm #

    If you like ‘historic cocktails’ try one of mixologist James Ives’ “Restoration Cocktails” at PINE in The Hanover Inn (Hanover NH). He creates these “19th and early 20th century cocktails adapted for a modern palate with fresh juices and house-made ingredients,” Maybe an Opening Night — an elegant variation on the classic French 75, c 1915.

Leave a Reply

We reserve the right to remove or edit comments that are offensive or disrespectful to our readers and/or writers, cannot be verified, lack clarity, or contain profanity. Your comments may be republished by Yankee Magazine across multiple platforms.

©2016, Yankee Publishing Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Yankee Publishing Inc., | P.O. Box 520, Dublin, NH 03444 | (603) 563-8111