Hard Liquor

Hard liquor, on the other hand, was another matter. Generically termed aqua vitae or hot water, distilled beverages came in the form of brandy, whiskey, gin, and rum. These contained on average 45 percent alcohol (in distiller’s terms, 90 proof), though the rums were often stronger. Colonists valued liquor for this high alcohol content, which enabled it to keep better than beer. The high alcohol content was also at times responsible for excessive drunkenness, and, from the beginning, distilled spirits were potent enough to raise concerns over misuse. Barrels of rum are loaded for shipping in Antigua. In the 1720s, the colonies imported more than 2.1 million gallons of rum from the Caribbean sugar islands. The colonists drank abundantly, and sailors and other workers received regular rations of alcoholic beverages. (British Library, London, United Kingdom/Bridgeman Art Library) Colonists nonetheless placed such a premium on distilled liquor that in the early years it was often used as wages. When the Boston town council threatened to halt this practice in the 1640s, one group of laborers responded with what may have been America’s first strike, and the authorities backed down and restored the workers’ drink. Around the turn of the eighteenth century, a shift occurred in popular drinking patterns, and distilled spirits replaced beer as the alcoholic beverages of choice. As supply increased and prices dropped, especially in the case of rum (produced from sugar molasses), colonists took to imbibing hard liquor more often, and because of the high alcohol content, they achieved the desired state of inebriation more rapidly. Rum, which was served straight up or mixed in grogs and toddies, grew especially prevalent as sugar cane production increased in the Caribbean sugar islands. Colonial officials began to express their concerns about alcohol abuse, drunkenness, disorder, and the lack of control in regulating drinking habits. Gin, in particular, developed a dubious reputation in both the Old World and the New. Distilled from the juniper berry, gin was produced cheaply and easily and became highly popular among the urban poor. In the view of many Englishmen, the gin epidemic had grown out of control by the 1730s, and it was immortalized in the public imagination in Hogarth’s famous Gin Lane prints, which depicted the ravages of gin on English society. The urban population in the colonies, however, remained small enough so that gin never took on the same social significance as it did in the metropole. Nonetheless, colonial officials attempted to regulate alcohol consumption more closely as the eighteenth century progressed. Publix, Wal-Mart disagree on whether to sell hard liquor amid … Foot chase nabs burglary suspects Sun Journal HUMAN – Hard Times Call For Hard Liquor – Clothing Racerback

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