If you haven’t heard, the Sanford Historical Society is doing something pretty cool, and we couldn’t have been more pleased that it has a focus on beer, wine, and liquor. If you’d like to get up to speed on Smith’s Barroom Challenge and fundraiser for the Sanford Historical Society, please read this little ditty we wrote for Sanford365.
What started the challenge was the discovery of an inventory list from ye ol Smith’s Barroom in Sanford from 1892. And perusing the list has fascinated me. I’m not sure what I expected, the art of fermentation and distillation have been around for thousands of years, so perhaps I shouldn’t have been as surprised as I was to see some amazing ingredients. Maybe I had always thought sasparillas and whiskies were the only thing on “frontier” menus.
At least half of my first inclination was correct -- Smith’s Barroom was well stocked with whiskey! From what I could tell there was plenty of rye and Irish (barrels) and a little bit of bourbon (cases). By my rough calculations the stock included well over 75,000 ounces of whiskey - enough for over 37,000 well-poured shots.
Some of the names that stand out are:
Belle of Nelson Whiskey - named after a racehorse, from a distillery in Louisville, Kentucky which operated from 1869 to 1895.
J.G. Mattingly & Sons Rye Whiskey - Mattingly’s grandson began his own distillery (one of them being the above Belle of Nelson), and Mattingly & Sons was eventually purchased by Paul Jones, Jr. who changed the name to Four Roses Distillery. Lots of whiskey coming from the Louisville area, obviously.
Oscar Pepper Whiskey - one of the oldest whiskey brands in Kentucky, founded in 1775. Taking over the brand after his father’s death, he hired Dr. James Crow, a Scottish chemist, who has been celebrated as the person responsible for enhancing the bourbon-making process by improving and structuring sour-mash fermentation, pot still distillation, and the process of aging in wooden barrels.
Irish Whiskey - while the St. Johns River certainly facilitated the movement of goods to the area, importing whiskey to Sanford from across the pond wasn’t something done on the regular. So there we have 20 and a half gallons of Irish whiskey among the barrels of Kentucky brown.
Beyond the whiskey though there are some lovely touches of beer, gin, brandy, some rum, wine, spring water, champagne, bitters, and liqueurs. This was a really well-stocked bar with enough ingredients to make some of those classic cocktails we all appreciate today.
Anisette - an anise-flavored liqueur that is consumed in most Mediterranean countries. Sweeter than absinthe, imagine something more along the lines of Sambuca.
Yellow Chartreuse - the French liqueur and sweeter version of Green Chartreuse was about 50 years young, having just been developed in 1838. Carthusian Monks had been making Chartreuse since the early 18th century and drama ensued when France expelled monks a couple of times throughout the centuries. Recipes were lost, found, smuggled, and returned to the monks. Today the herbal mixture and recipe are only known to two monks - now that’s a trade secret!
Budweiser - one of America’s favorite pale lagers made its introduction in 1876. But did you know that Anheuser-Busch InBev has been in a trademark dispute with a Czech Republic beer since 1907? Apparently, Budweis has been brewed in the Czech Republic since 1245. And when Adolphus Busch visited the region and enjoyed the beer, he thought it’d be a good idea to brew something similar and call it . . . something similar. So due to the legal disputes in the EU, Budweiser is called Bud.
There’s so many more interesting brands and ingredients on this list, but I’ll leave you with those tidbits for now! Can you imagine the conversations, cocktails, and business deals that went down at Smith’s? Were women allowed to partake in public? What effect was the temperance movement having? We hear things got pretty heated, and there was quite a push to make Sanford a “dry” town long before Prohibition.
You can try your hand at creating a cocktail inspired by this list OR get out to a #SmithsBarroomChallenge participating establishment during the month of April and see what you think about their creations! We’ve had some excellent drinks so far!
Cheers to history!