Colonists brought the long-prevailing aversion to contaminated water to America (and did a great job polluting the waters of the New World not long after they arrived on these shores). Fermented drinks like beer and cider and distilled spirits like rum didn’t make them sick, like the bacteria-ridden European water did, so imbibing was the norm for men, women, and children alike. “From breakfast cider to afternoon beer to evening flips, toddies, and glasses of Canary wine, alcohol lubricated almost every hour of every day,” Hirsch writes.
The temperance preached by the stereotypical Puritan (even by famous fuddy-duddies Cotton and Increase Mather) still allowed for a few glasses a day, and many Puritans were the distillers and brewers making mead, brandy, and beer. Thomas Jefferson’s hopes for Virginia vineyards are well-documented, but did you also know that George Washington was a homebrewer, favoring his own recipe for “small beer” (a low-alcohol, bran-based malt) along with porter? When Scotch-Irish immigrants arrived in America, so did whiskey. And when it was discovered that molasses wasn’t just a wasted byproduct of West Indian sugar making but a plentiful source for rum, the colonies had a new favorite drink.
As Hirsch relates, bartenders have been bestowing memorable names upon their concoctions for centuries, like the mimbo, stone-fence, sangaree, cherry bounce, and flip. She calls the flip (pictured above, with recipe following) the gimlet or Cosmo of its day: an inescapable fixture on every 18th-century bar menu. Beer and rum, often along with eggs or cream to thicken the drink and a few spoonfuls of sweetener like molasses, cane sugar, or dried pumpkin, were mixed in a pitcher while a poker was heated in the fire. The red-hot poker was then used to whip the drink, making it frothy and warm while adding caramelized flavor. Pouring the drink between two mugs, as in the recipe below, added velvety texture to the already-creamy drink.
For my photographed version of the traditional ale flip, I decided to keep it within the family of beverages from my friends at Brinley Gold Rum. The rum itself is their signature Shipwreck spiced rum, made with molasses and nutmeg. The beer in the drink is Shipwreck Porter, a collaboration between Brinley Gold and New Jersey’s own Carton Brewing. Aged in the same oak barrels that held the Shipwreck rum for four years, the deeply flavorful beer takes on the vanilla and spice notes that seeped into the wood over time, along with the coffee maltiness that make a porter so satisfying.
You don’t have to go whole hog with the ingredient pairings as I did, but look for a malty dark beer like a porter, an oatmeal stout, a traditional British brown ale, or even a doppelbock to go with the spicy molasses notes of the rum.
Prep time: 10 minutes
Total time: 10 minutes
Makes 1 drink
Boston shaker or 2 pint glasses
- 1 1/2 fl. oz. (3 tablespoons) rum
- 1 tablespoon molasses
- 1 large egg
- 8 fl. oz. (1 cup) dark beer such as brown ale, porter, or stout
- freshly grated nutmeg for garnish
Pour the rum and molasses into one of the pint/shaker glasses. Crack the egg into the other glass and beat well with a fork.
Warm the beer in a small saucepan over low heat just until it begins to froth and steam; don’t let it come to a boil.
Pour the beer into the glass filled with rum, then pour the egg into the beer. Continue to pour the drink back and forth between the pint glasses until smooth and well-blended, then transfer to a mug or other clean and heat-safe drinking glass.
Grate fresh nutmeg over the flip and serve immediately.