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The Stone Fence: Colonial America’s Liquid Courage

The Stone Fence: Colonial America’s Liquid Courage:

Long before there were fancy cocktails, there were just drinks. We didn’t have massive international distilleries, whose products were sold in chain liquor stores. Beer wasn’t brewed in factories and shipped all over the globe to be enjoyed in airport bars. There were no Japanese cocktail shakers, cocktail blogs, or molecular mixology. What you got your hands on is what you drank.

Colonial Americans scrounged up whatever they could and threw it together to muster the fortitude to face each hardscrabble day. Sometimes it was some ale, eggs, and a little bit of sugar heated with a hot poker from the tavern fireplace in an attempt to stare down yet another brutal Northeastern winter. On the eve of May 10, 1775, it was rum and hard cider—a potent concoction, to be sure—that helped brace Ethan Allen and his Green Mountain Boys before their raid on Fort Ticonderoga.

Cocktail historian David Wondrich had this to say about the Stone Fence’s rock-solid moniker: “A name which hints at the effect produced by getting outside too many of these, which is not unlike that produced by running downhill into one.” A good point to be sure, and quite frankly I’ve never seen the appeal of this drink in this day and age.

But with the coming of fall, I do love the idea of apples in cocktails, so I decided to revisit the Stone Fence. It occurred to me that the main turnoff for me was the addition of hard cider to already strong rum. And being the sort of bartender that makes his own non-alcoholic apple cider, I knew I already had a solution at hand.

So I turned to a slightly mellower option: Pairing aged rum with freshly pressed apple cider. They compliment each other perfectly. The funky molasses, the caramel, and the briny saline found in a good bottle of aged rum go so well with sweet, earthy, tart apple cider. Try this refreshing little number while the sun is still somewhat high in the sky and the leaves are turning a crisp shade. Hot drinks and cold nights are just around the corner.

Stone Fence
2 oz. aged rum (I reach for the Appleton V/X or 12 Year rums from Jamaica)
4 oz. fresh-pressed apple cider
Lemon or apple wedge, for garnish (optional)

Combine ingredients with ice in an Old Fashioned glass. Garnish with a lemon or apple wedge.


Jeffrey Morgenthaler is the bar manager at Pépé le Moko and Clyde Common, the acclaimed gastropub at the Ace Hotel in Portland, Oregon. He is also author of The Bar Book: Elements of Cocktail Technique.


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