15 Stars, 15 Stripes, 15 Original Cocktails

The nation’s top mixologists create cocktails inspired by our spirited past.

Mixologists & Cocktail Recipes

  • Eric Alperin
  • Anu Apte
  • Greg Best
  • Derek Brown
  • Brendan Casey
  • Brendan Dorr
  • Phoebe Esmon
  • Gui Jaroschy
  • Charles Joly
  • Sean Kenyon
  • Steven Liles
  • Chris McMillian
  • Ivy Mix
  • Josey Packard
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Tales from the Collection: A Bartender’s Guide to Medicinal Wine

By Diane Wendt, Associate Curator, Medicine and Science, NMAH

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A sample druggist’s label for a Beef Wine, ca. 1890. Courtesy the Division of Medicine and Science, NMAH.

In Part I of my Bartenders Guide, I introduced a few products from the Museum’s collection of patent medicines. These herbal/alcohol formulations reconnect us with now half-forgotten plant–once the mainstay of medical therapies–including the South American cinchona tree, which yields the anti-malarial drug quinine, and the “poison nut” tree of India (nux vomica), the source of strychnine.

I now present a few wine-based medications that employ some of these same herbal extracts along with a few new ones. Despite the strange or unexpected ingredients, the appeal of these health-giving libations remains timeless.

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Raising My Glass to History

By Simon Majumdar

Simon Majumdar

Simon Majumdar

Of the many exciting offers that cross my desk every week, I was particularly thrilled to be invited to host the gala event of the Raise a Glass to History celebration. This is not only because of my own fondness for a drink in the evening, but also because it comes at the culmination of my own journey to become a proud American citizen. I can’t think of a better way of marking the occasion than with a perfectly made cocktail.

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Tales from the Collection: A Bartender’s Guide to Patent Medicines

By Diane Wendt, Associate Curator, Medicine and Science, NMAH

Hostetter‘s Almanac, circa 1878. Courtesy the Division of Medicine and Science, NMAH.

In 1905, Collier’s Weekly published a series of 11 articles by Samuel Hopkins Adams exposing the false and fraudulent claims made by the patent medicine industry. In the second article, entitled “Peruna and the Bracers,” Adams targeted popular remedies that consisted largely of alcohol — and very little else. Peruna was one of these.

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Tales from the Collection: Is this George Washington’s Still?

By Mallory Warner, Project Assistant, Division of Medicine and Science, NMAH

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Courtesy the Division of Medicine and Science, NMAH.

You might think bootlegging died with the repeal of Prohibition in 1933, but you’d be wrong. Unlike home winemaking and brewing, home distillation never became legal again after repeal. Which is why, around 1940, the Alcohol Tax Unit at the Bureau of Internal Revenue confiscated this illegal still from a bootlegger in Fairfax County, VA.

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Rye Is This So Hard?

By Susan Evans, Director, American Food History Project, NMAH

Hannisville Pure Rye Whiskey, 1916-1928. Division of Medicine and Science, National Museum of American History.

Many of the recipes created for Raise a Glass to History feature rye whiskey, an ingredient with a storied American past. But how does rye make it to the shelf today? Daniel Fisher, the Senior Vice President of Astor Wines & Spirits who also holds a Master of Science in Brewing and Distilling, answers a few questions about the modern process of making rye whiskey.

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Origin Story: Mint Juleps

By Ryan Lintelman, Curatorial Assistant, NMAH

The mint julep is an iconic drink most associated with the bluegrass South and the Kentucky Derby, but it’s one of the oldest and most historic American mixed drinks. Derived from the Arabic word julab, or “rose-water,” the word julep came to refer to any sweetened, chilled, and diluted alcoholic drink by the late 18th century. They were perceived as medicinal drinks, and Americans drank them feverishly. On a tour of Virginia by stagecoach in the 1827, Englishman Basil Hall watched his traveling companions drink 10 juleps in the course of a day, thinking nothing of it. The mint julep became extremely popular in Virginia, Maryland, and Kentucky in the early 1800s, and was more often made with rye whiskey or brandy than bourbon in the early days. By the time Kentucky Senator Henry Clay introduced the drink to Washington DC, the recipe, with its canonical Kentucky bourbon, had been standardized.

Sherry: America’s First Wine

By Regan Hofmann

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Though no other beverage evokes images of old Spain, bullfights and Hemingway’s foreign travels the way sherry does, its roots in American history go all the way back to the first European explorers.

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Origin Story: Cocktail Shakers

By Ryan Lintelman, Curatorial Assistant, NMAH

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American bartenders first began to use cocktail shakers in the mid-1800s. For centuries, tavern keepers had been stirring or pouring drinks between cups to mix them. But when ice became widely commercially available in the 1800s, bartenders needed a container to quickly mix, chill, and strain the fashionable new cocktails, juleps, and nogs that were taking the country by storm. The earliest shakers, predecessors of the “Boston shaker” still preferred by mixologists today, was simply comprised of two large glasses or tin tumblers of unequal circumference fitted together at their mouths to form a tight seal. The mixed drink could then be strained into a final glass. In 1872, William Harnett of Brooklyn submitted a patent for an “apparatus for mixing 6 drinks at once” and succeeding patents introduced new types and sizes of shakers to meet bartender’s needs.

Loophole Liquor: Five Drinks You Could Legally Have During Prohibition

By Regan Hofmann

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Mlle. Rhea, a dancer, seated with a flask in a garter on her leg. Taken Jan. 26, 1926.

Thanks to a few persistent lobbyists and some common household chores, not all alcohol was chased out of the country during the 13 years of Prohibition. They may not have been pretty – or even intended for public consumption at all – but for the determined drinker, there were still a few legal sources of alcohol kicking around. Here are five of the most common hooch alternatives from the era, ranked from tastiest to do-not-try-this-at-home.

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