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Arts & Life

Cheers! American colonial revolutionaries "fortified" by a drink before taking a British fort

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An artist's rendition of Ethan Allen and the Green Mountain boys taking Fort Ticonderoga.

On a Tuesday night in 1775 a bunch of guys with muskets were sitting around imbibing a colonial America favored mixed drink, the Stone Fence. They had nothing definite on their schedule the next day, so they decided they would try to take the nearby British fortification, Fort Ticonderoga. Those fellows, who called themselves the Green Mountain Boys, followed their leader Ethan Allen into Revolutionary War history by successfully seizing the fort the following morning.

Tammy Coxen with Tammy’s Tastings was mixing up a Stone Fence, but the ingredients were a little different than what the Green Mountain Boys would have been drinking.

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Lester Graham
Tammy Coxen with the ingredients for her version of the Stone Fence.

“Back then, they would have been drinking this with rum,” Tammy said. At the time, rum was the most common spirit imported to the colonies. Add to that some hard cider and you had a Stone Fence.

But the Stone Fence evolved from being just a rum drink. By 1862, in Jerry Thomas’ Bartenders Guide, the Stone Fence recipe calls for whiskey. Over the years other recipes used apple brandy, bourbon, or whatever spirit was in vogue or just available.

“I chose the Solara Ole George from Grand Traverse Distillery,” Tammy said.

She happened to have Vander Mill hard cider in her house. And she decided to add an optional ingredient: bitters.

“I used the Iron Fish Distillery Aromatic Bitters because I think it’s so cool that we have some made-in-Michigan bitters again,” she said.

After taking a sip of her version of the Stone Fence, Tammy declared she was “fortified” and ready for battle.

Stone Fence

2 oz aged spirit - rum, bourbon, rye, apple brandy (we used Grand Traverse Solera Old George Rye)

1 dash bitters (optional)

hard apple cider to taste (we used Vander Mill Hard Apple)

Put a couple of ice cubes in a rocks glass. Add spirit and bitters if using. Top with apple cider. Get ready to take down a fort the next morning.

Tammy Coxen and Lester Graham are the authors of Cheers to Michigan: A Celebration of Cocktail Culture and Craft Distillers from the University of Michigan Press. The book is based on the Cheers! episodes heard on Michigan Radio.

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