In “The Alcoholic Republic: An American Tradition,” historian William Rorabaugh wrote that July 4 evoked “a national intoxication.” Communal celebratory binge drinking was so customary at July 4 festivities that “it was surely no accident that one early temperance society adopted a pledge that allowed its members to become intoxicated on Independence Day.”
With less than a week to go until the next Independence Day, here are some thoughts on what to enjoy while celebrating America’s birthday.
For wine, consider the dry, crisp, yet relatively full 2017 Don Ernesto Beret Rosé ($27; mevushal) from Hagafen Cellars of Napa Valley, Calif. Made from syrah, this latest vintage offers plush aromas and flavors of strawberry, watermelon, honeysuckle and lemon zest, with a whisper of menthol-like greenness that both quenches and refreshes. It is light enough to be enjoyed on its own, but should nicely pair with typical grilled foods, like hot dogs, hamburgers, or grilled chicken or fish.
Another great wine is the Covenant Winery, Mensch, Zinfandel (Lodi, Calif.), 2016 ($20; mevushal; available online directly from the winery with limited retail distribution): This budget-priced, value-driven wine from the consistently great Covenant Winery is rich, yet softly textured and fruit forward. It is practically bursting with clean and lovely black cherry, raspberry and boysenberry. It also has notes of cocoa and hints of rosemary and black licorice on the finish. Very tasty.
For heftier intoxicants, the American drink of choice after the Revolutionary War was rye whiskey — it was both cheap and plentiful.
As master distiller Dave Pickerell once put it to me: “When they threw the tea into Boston Harbor, it wasn’t just throwing tea, it was throwing the British way of life — and that included rum, the colonial drink. They certainly weren’t about to quit drinking, but it did mean they were going to switch to something made indigenously, and that was rye whiskey.”
Until Prohibition, America had a proud domestic rye whiskey industry, particularly in Maryland, Virginia and Pennsylvania. So when preparing for July 4th, consider cracking open some straight rye whiskey.
One of my go-to choices is: Russell’s Reserve, 6 Year Old, Kentucky Straight Rye Whiskey (45 percent abv; $45): This warming, super smooth, fun, light-ish yet wonderful rye whiskey offers aromas and flavors of almonds, caramel, honey, vanilla, oak, cherries, banana bread, cinnamon and New York rye bread. Mild mannered as rye whiskies go, but just superb. L’chaim!
Send your wine and spirits questions to Joshua E. London at [email protected].