234 years ago today saw the troubled, uncertain birth of a nation. Fifty-six frightened men in Philadelphia rather presumptuously committed their two million fellow colonists to casting off the control of the mightiest nation on the planet. They knew they were doing something important, something big, but they had no idea just how big it would become.
The Fourth of July is a day to celebrate, and let me just say that one of the most appropriate possible ways to celebrate the greatness of our nation is with our national cuisine.
What’s that you say? America has no cuisine of its own? We steal the best of other cultures’ schools and enjoy them for ourselves? Hamburgers are not cuisine?
America does indeed have its own cuisine, its own culinary school of art and skill in which delicious dishes are expressed with creativity and style. Like other nations, we’ve exported our cuisine, and you can find it made all over the world, often at the highest levels. But it remains ours, and America remains the source of the best of the craft.
America’s cuisine is the cocktail.
A cuisine is a specific school of preparing food (I contend that drink is integral to food) that reflects the culture of the people who originate it, and the land where they live.
Cocktails reflect the endless inventive nature of Americans. They use the both the bewildering variety of ingredients available in our land, as well as ingredients from all around the world where we have gone as traders. Like so many American institutions, their success is predicated on industrial advances, most especially for cocktails, the mechanical production of ice.
Cocktails are America’s singular contribution to the bedrock element of humanity, the convivial table. The gestalt of liquors, liqueurs, juices, spices, herbs, and sugars is indeed our cuisine.
So on this Fourth of July, even if you aren’t American yourself (or perhaps even more so in that case) celebrate with a cocktail or three. Celebrate our fractious, dangerous, magnificent nation with a balanced, delicious example of our national craft. Make whatever you like, whatever appeals. Create your own, if you like. The genius of the cocktail, that makes it even more American, is that you can do that. It doesn’t take advanced schooling or apprenticeship to be able to make or create a good drink (though it can help). All it takes is patience and perspiration.
But I’ll leave you with a recipe suggestion, nonetheless. I’ve posted on it before, but it is a perfect Fourth of July drink. Born in the fetid swamps of our nation’s capital itself, the Gin Rickey is an overwhelming weapon in the fight against thirst. Moreover, emblematic of the nature of our cuisine as I’ve touched on here, it is easily tinkered with. Simply replace the gin with virtually any spirit that suits your fancy, or you find at hand, and it will likely still be delicious. Try one, or any other cocktail, and raise a toast to those fifty-six men in a hot, sticky hall in Philadelphia, preparing to hang together… lest they all hang separately.
- 2 oz. gin
- 1 oz. fresh lime juice
- 4 oz. sparkling water
Combine ingredients over ice in a collins glass. Drop one or two spent lime halves into the glass as garnish.