Washington’s Peach Brandy, Cherries and Punch

Making punch with peach brandy has a long history. A Caribbean punch called Mobby, primarily made with tubers, such as potatoes, is described as being made with brandy distilled from apples or peaches in 1705.[i] The famous “Fish House Punch” (rum, brandy, peach brandy, lemon or lime juice, sugar and ice) is said to have originated at the State Country Club, Schuylkill, Philadelphia in 1732. So when I heard that George Washington’s peach brandy had been re-created, I was intrigued.

1917 postcard toasting Washington's birthday on 22nd February, with punch

1917 postcard toasting Washington’s birthday on 22nd February, with punch

This postcard, from my collection, shows George Washington being toasted on his birthday with a glass of punch. The cherries are probably displayed in reference to the apocryphal story of Washington’s childhood when he owned up to having cut down his father’s cherry tree: ‘I cannot tell a lie father’ he was supposed to have declared. Instead of being punished, his father rewarded him for his honesty in admitting his crime.

Rum had been the most popular spirit in the colonies, but whiskey and brandy, made with locally grown products became more popular, especially after the War of Independence. George Washington evidently had a good head for business and, on the advice of his farm manager James Anderson, who had been involved in the distilling industry in Scotland before immigrating to America, he built a large distillery with five stills at Mount Vernon over the winter of 1797-1798. Within two years the distillery was producing nearly 11,000 gallons, making it the largest whiskey distillery in America at the time. The most common beverage produced was a rye-based whiskey, twice distilled for common whiskey, four times distilled for a more expensive version. Some were flavoured with cinnamon or persimmons. Apple, peach and persimmon brandies were also produced. His accounts indicate that peach brandy was sent up to Washington’s house for his personal use.

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