Celebrate George Washington's Birthday With a Cherry Cocktail

On General Principle med
On General Principle med

Has anyone stopped to consider what motivated a six year-old boy to chop down his father’s favorite cherry tree?

“I cannot tell a lie.” So the legend goes, this is what was said by a young George Washington, when confronted amid the carnage of downed limbs, "looking at his father with the sweet face of youth brightened with the inexpressible charm of all-conquering truth." According to Washington’s earliest biographer, Parson Mason Weems, who first recounted this story in the The Life of Washington, (released in 1800, a year after the death of the first P.O.T.U.S.), his father was so impressed with such a raw admission of honesty that he immediately forgave his son.

It’s cute. Although, it’s not as though the little tike had much of a choice. The evidence was kind of damning:

  • Scattered limbs.
  • Tree down.
  • Clear skies.
  • No one else around.
  • Kid’s got a hatchet.

It begs the question, what makes a six year old kid knowingly destroy a thing his father loves? Further more, the hatchet was a gift. Who gives a six year-old a freaking AX, for Chrissakes?

However, despite what seem like rather suspicious parenting choices and an early, violent display of frustrated rage brought on by who-knows-what, we all know George turned out alright. Since the book’s release, he has been enduringly linked to both the idea of virtue and cherries. Because today is celebrated in the US as President’s Day as an excuse for a three-day weekend in anticipation of his upcoming birthday on February 22, it seems fitting we would toast the Revolutionary General with something cherry-tastic. Unfortunately, though, it is still a long way till cherry season.

Thankfully, we have cherry preserves! Jams and preserves are a terrific pantry staple cocktail ingredient, not only adding a pleasant tart flavor, but eliminating the need for further sweetener. More layers of cherry flavor are enhanced with cherry bitters, such as Suius Cherry by Bittered Sling. Then there’s the garnish. Hopefully you still have some of your homemade cocktail cherries left!

Rye is the main base of the drink, since Washington operated a successful distillery at Mount Vernon, where rye, considered America’s native spirit, was produced. That whiskey is still made in some capacity, but can be tough to find, as well as the new limited edition bottling in his honor made by Hillrock Estate. If you really want to George out, these would be ideal in the drink, of course. However, most of us would be quite content to use good ol’ American standbys such as Old Overholt and Michter’s.

The cocktail could still use some kick though, and what better way to add an extra layer of boozy flavor than from a good American rum, which until the time of the 1764 Sugar Tax and Boston Tea Party, was a prosperous Colonial industry? (Incidentally, it was because the rum industry all but dried out in Colonial America that people started distilling more from local grain.) Gold rum is best for this. Three suggestions: Old Ipswich Tavern Style (silver medalist in the 2013 NY International Spirits Competition), Berkshire Mountain Distillers Ragged Mountain or Privateer Amber Rum.

Cheers and happy President’s Day, everyone! Now isn’t having a cherry cocktail better than visiting a car dealership or buying a mattress?

On General Principle

  • 44 ml (1.5 oz) Straight Rye Whiskey
  • 30 ml (1 oz) Gold Rum
  • heaping bar spoon Cherry Preserves
  • 3 drops Cherry bitters
  • Garnish: 3 Cocktail Cherries

Shake all ingredients except garnish with ice until well chilled. Double strain into rocks glass over large ice cube, if you have one, otherwise over a few rocks. Add the cherries. Sip a truthfully yummy drink!