Saturday, August 06, 2016

A Mint Julep-Fueled Escape

Nicholas Cresswell: An Englishman Who Knew
When to Apply a Little Julep
In my new book Southern Spirits: 400 Years of Drinking in the American South, I tell the story of mint juleps and how they evolved from being a morning dram that tippling men knocked back as an “antifogmatic” into the most trendy drink of the sporting set in New York City. One of the stories I had to leave out involved the early form of juleps—basically, a glass of rum cut with sugar and a little water—and how Virginians’ practice of starting the day off with them helped one Englishman get out of a rather serious jam.

Nicholas Cresswell arrived in Virginia in 1774 at the age of 24, hoping to make his fortune as a planter. In the early days of the Revolution, he ran afoul of his neighbors because he refused to support the cause of independence. In 1777, accused of being a Tory and threatened with "Tar, Feathers, Imprisonment, and the D---l knows what”, Cresswell and a friend traveled down the Chesapeake Bay to Hampton, where they planned to board a ship and make their way to loyalist-held New York.

In Hampton, Commodore Tollever, the commander of the American galleys, suspected what the two men were up to, and he came to their lodgings early one morning and “insisted upon us taking a Julep with him, which we repeated so often that all hands got very merry.” Cresswell knew Tollever was onto them, so he drank plentifully and “helped him to abuse the King, Lord North, and all the British Ministry.” The booze and royal abuse softened the Commodore, and he let Cresswell and his friend board the ship, though he installed two galley men as guards to ensure the boat didn’t leave Virginia waters.

Once at sea, Cresswell continued to ply the master of the ship and the two guards with more liquor and, once their captors were good and schnockered, overpowered them and locked them in the hatch. Cresswell and his companion sailed up the coast and were eventually picked up by a British man-of-war and taken to New York. He stayed only a few months before returning to England, his dreams of becoming a wealthy Virginia landholder broken and his escape made possible by the Virginia tradition of morning julep-drinking. 

No comments:

Popular Posts