For July 15 we’re mixing up the General’s Orders cocktail to mark an important point in the Whiskey Rebellion. It’s a story of booze, rebels, tax collectors and the Federal Government. That calls for a drink, of course. And since generals were involved we turn to the General’s Orders recipe which uses ingredients of the time.
The Whiskey Rebellion
The Whiskey Rebellion was a violent tax revolt in western Pennsylvania from 1791 to 1794. The federal government was new, George Washington was President and debts used to fund the Revolutionary War were outstanding. The government needed revenue beyond what import duties provided, so in 1791 Alexander Hamilton promoted an excise tax on domestically produced spirits. It was the first tax levied on a domestic product.
This was particularly unpopular with farmers and distillers west of the Allegheny Mountains. Whiskey was much easier than grain to transport to population centers to the east. Being on the frontier meant they used whiskey as a medium of exchange as coins were scarce. While we endorse the idea of a spirits-based economy we also understand why it never caught on.
Protesters used violence and intimidation to prevent collection of the tax. Officials who tried were beaten or tarred and feathered. The tax went uncollected through 1791 and into 1792.
On July 15, 1794 a group of rebels started firing shots at Federal Marshall David Lenox and tax collector General John Neville. Thus began the climax of the insurrection, with armed rebels surrounding Neville’s fortified compound the following day. Shots were fired, some insurrectionists died.
An armed insurrection didn’t look so good for a new government. Washington sent commissioners to negotiate while at the same time sending a militia force to enforce the tax. Washington himself rode at the head of the force but the rebels scattered before the militia arrived. No confrontation occurred but about 20 arrests were made. They were all eventually acquitted or pardoned.
The whiskey excise remained all but impossible to collect but showed that the new government had the will to enforce its laws. Even if the tax was repealed a few years later during the Jefferson administration.
General’s Orders Cocktail
The General’s Orders cocktail recipe was developed by Derek Brown, who was the spirits advisor for a 2015 exhibit by the National Archives called “Spirited Republic: Alcohol in American History.” He conducted seminars there and decided to publish a book, Spirits, Sugar, Water, Bitters: How the Cocktail Conquered the World.
That title, of course, should ring familiar as the original definition of a cocktail. We’ve discussed it at length when mixing the Improved Whiskey Cocktail for World Cocktail Day, and you’ve seen it in recipes like the Old Fashioned we like to mix on National Tater Tot Day.
In any event, The General’s Orders utilizes the two spirits most consumed in America at the time of the Whiskey Rebellion: rum and rye whiskey. If rum surprises you we refer you back to the Stone Fence and Boston Rum Punch. Rum was, in fact, the dominant spirit in the late 18th century.
The General’s Orders recipe itself falls into the sours family: spirit, citrus, sweetener. Here the base is split between whiskey and rum and the sweet comes from Cherry Heering. The recipe calls for pouring over crushed ice in a highball glass. That said, if you prefer your drink more direct there’s no shame in simply serving it over larger cubes or even up.
General's Orders Cocktail
- Add all ingredients to your trusty shaker.
- Add ice and shake until frosty cold.
- Strain into highball glass filled with crushed ice.