This chapter describes various types of beverages and drinking habits from the colonial period. During that time, water was America’s most commonly consumed beverage. All colonists drank water—either straight or mixed with other beverages, such as cider, wine, beer, and milk. As American society evolved, alcohol was imbibed when waking in the morning and before retiring at night. It was served before, during, and after meals, social gatherings, weddings, funerals, ordinations, auctions, dances, and many other occasions. Beer was the most important alcoholic beverage. English colonists brought beer and malt with them, and both were imported from England throughout the colonial period. Colonists also planted apple trees shortly after their arrival in America. As their orchards bore fruit, hard cider became a popular beverage in New England and the Middle Colonies. Despite the almost universal popularity of alcoholic beverages, many colonists drank nonalcoholic beverages as well. Goats and cows imported into America shortly after colonization provided milk. As the number of cows increased, milk became a very important beverage, drunk by young and old alike. Taverns played an important social, political, and economic role in colonial times. These were places where men met to drink, socialize, discuss events of the day, engage in business transactions, and occasionally participate in political processes—all of which were ratified with drink.
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