Food & Beverage

Stone-Fence, A Crowd-Pleasing Drink with a Backstory

July 4 may have come and gone, but the spirit of '76 can infuse every day of the year — especially inside your glass.

20140405_Colonial_Drinks_stoneColonial-era Americans may have forged a revolution that changed the world, but they were also enthusiastic drinkers — and the arsenal of proto-cocktails they invented (or adapted) are particularly well-suited for groups.

By the time the War of Independence began, each male over the age of 15 drank the equivalent of several shots a day — up to seven, by some accounts. Some of that was in the form of rum punch, which was served from bowls and tended to foster conversation and camaraderie. 

Yet our forefathers concocted a wealth of other simple yet bracing drinks, some of which are sure-fire conversation starters at meetings. Case in point: the Stone-Fence (pictured).

A Stone-Fence is deceptively easy to make, and easier still to drink: A splash of dark rum blended with sparkling hard cider, and (for a modern twist) then garnished with lemon peel. Both rum and hard cider were easy to come by in the Thirteen Colonies, so combining them was probably inevitable; the result, zippy and refreshing. People light up when they learn that the drink was a particular favorite of Vermont revolutionary Ethan Allen, who knocked them back with his men in the hours before they took Fort Ticonderoga. (Another relevant factoid: John Adams enjoyed a tankard of hard cider with his breakfast).

This colonial-era trivia delighted some of the attendees at this year’s Mensa Annual Gathering in Boston, where I spoke earlier this month. Though I trembled in my boots at the idea of a Mensa-driven q&a, the presentation went off without a hitch — and a handful of Mensa attendees and I trekked to their roomy “hospitality” ballroom afterward for an informal round of Stone-Fences sipped from paper cups. The unusual drinks seemed to get their Thursday night off to a cheery start.

The bottom line: People love a twist. Especially a lemon twist delivered in a drink with a backstory. Stone-Fences deliver on both counts.

A Modern Stone-Fence
Adapted from Forgotten Drinks of Colonial New England: From Flips and Rattle-Skulls to Switchel and Spruce Beer.

2 ounces dark rum
Sparkling hard cider (preferably one with residual sweetness)
Citrus bitters (optional)
Lemon wedges or twists, for garnish

Fill a tall Collins glass with ice. Pour in rum, then top with cider and a dash of bitters. Stir gently to combine. Garnish with lemon, and serve.

(Drink can be mixed and served from pitchers; simply scale up amounts).

Corin Hirsch

Corin Hirsch is a writer who specializes in food and drink.