This chapter describes the consumption and production of whiskey during and after the Revolutionary War. Rum had been the dominant American spirit before the Revolutionary War. However, when war broke out in 1775, the importation of molasses from the Caribbean almost ceased, and it remained difficult to acquire molasses during the following eight years. Whiskey, which could be made from abundant locally grown grain, was the obvious alternative, and its production and consumption skyrocketed during the war. When the American Revolution ended in 1783, the British forbade molasses trading with their colonies in the Caribbean, but other European colonies increased their exports of molasses to the new nation. Although rum distillers quickly regained some of their market share on the East Coast, many Americans had become fond of whiskey. Therefore, whiskey’s popularity continued to grow after the war’s end. By the 1820s, whiskey was the cheapest of all beverages. It was enjoyed in all regions of the country, and it was the universal alcoholic beverage in the western frontier areas, where it was variously called “tarantula juice,” “chain-lightning,” and many other hard and grotesque names.
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