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©2020 Secret Society of Social Drinkers

History of Drinking

Drinking in Colonial Times

In Colonial times the drinking water contained bacteria that would give people dysentery and cholera. Therefore many people preferred to drink alcoholic beverages which did not make them sick. We now understand that boiling the water kills harmful bacteria during the process of brewing and distilling.


In the 1700's, alcohol consumption was regarded as just another drink. It was consumed regularly throughout the day. The average colonist drank approximately seven gallons of alcohol per year, over 3 times what American's drink now.

Benjamin Franklin

Franklin was very fond of alcohol. He published The Drinker's Dictionary is a list of 228 "round-about phrases" to describe drunkenness. It was published January 6, 1737 in the Pennsylvania Gazette. 

John Handcock

Before John Hancock put his pen to the Declaration of Independence to create the most famous signature of all time, he smuggled booze into the colonies to avoid British taxes. In 1768, a year after the Townshend Acts started trying to tell him how to run his business, British customs officials seized Hancock’s ship, defiantly named The Liberty, in Boston Harbor, accusing him of smuggling about 100,000 gallons of wine and Madeira (a wine fortified with rum), of which he was most certainly and proudly guilty.

However, in true Bostonian fashion, angry colonists literally dragged the customs ship out of harbor to Boston Common, where they proceeded to burn it in a giant bonfire.

Sam Adams

By 1773, the British had implemented another tax on the colonist, this time on tea. After a night of heated and rowdy drinking at the Green Dragon Tavern, Sam Adams led the Sons of Liberty to Boston Harbor.


The British ship they ransacked contained valuable rum aboard, which the Sons of Liberty first drank before they famously threw the King’s tea overboard.

Thomas Jefferson

As president, Thomas Jefferson imported more than 20,000 bottles of wine for his personal collection.

George Washington

Washington loved wine. He would drink as many as 4 bottle and dance the night away. After his presidency, he opened one of the largest whiskey distilleries in the country at Mount Vernon that produced 11,000 gallons in 1799.

John Adams

Adams began every day with a draft of hard cider before breakfast. He drank three glasses of Madeira, a wine fortified with rum, every night before bed. 

Paul Revere

In 1775, Paul Revere famously rode out of Boston at midnight to warn his fellow patriots that British were planning a march on Lexington. He was able to spread the word so fast and effectively by stopping at many different taverns. According to his own journals, he would have a few sips during his stops.