In John Berendt's Midnight In the Garden of Good and Evil, Mary Harty is quoted, "We have a saying: If you go to Atlanta, the first question people ask you is, 'What's your business?' In Macon they ask, 'Where do you go to church?' In Augusta they ask your grandmother's maiden name. But in Savannah the first question people ask you is, 'What would you like to drink?'"
When in Rome
Savannah has a long history since it was founded in 1733 when General James Oglethorpe and 120 other passengers set sail from England and landed in what would become America's 13th colony, Georgia. Part of that history does indeed include alcohol.
From A History of Wine in America, we read that, "General James Edward Oglethorpe (1696-1785) founded Georgia as a place where neither slavery nor strong drink was to be allowed, but where wine growing was to be a basic economic activity. 'We shall certainly succeed,' he affirmed but the best intentions were not good enough."
Now that you have some idea of the history of alcohol in Savannah, let’s explore where it has brought us today.
While Savannah knows how to throw a party (they have the third-largest St. Patrick's Day parade in the United States), you don't have to have a special occasion to get out and enjoy an adult beverage. The city has an open container ordinance that allows adults to explore the historic city while enjoying up to 16 ounces of their favorite beverage or other adult beverage for that matter.
So, grab your red Solo cup, and let's raise a toast to these drinks that you should drink when in Savannah.
1. Beer From a Haunted Brewery
Occupying the old City Hotel which was built in 1821, Moon River Brewing Company has been serving food and making hand-crafted beer since 1999.
While the building was a hotel, its guest list included the likes of War of 1812 hero Winfield Scott, the Marquis de Lafayette, the first three Commodores of the United States Navy, and naturalist James Audubon.
Not all of the clientele at the hotel were genteel like those men. Fits of violence erupted easily back in the day, especially when alcohol was involved. Yankees were particularly susceptible to being targets while Southerners defended their honor.
Nowadays, it purported that paranormal activity takes places at the brewery by the likes of bottles being thrown by unseen forces and spectres being sighted lingering in the billiard room.
2. Pink Lady Cocktail
The Olde Pink House Restaurant is in a National Landmark whose history dates back 250 years. The house was originally a mansion and later became part of Georgia's first bank. Over the years, it has served as headquarters for a general, housed an attorney's office, book store, and colonial tea room. Over the years, it was neglected and left for decay.
In the 1990s, as Savannah was undergoing a revitalization so was the Pink House. Today, the vaults that used to stand guard over money now "protect" the restaurant's wine cellar.
Savannah native son, Conrad Aiken, had a way with words. The poet won several writing awards: a Pulitzer Prize in 1930, a National Book Award in 1954, and the National Medal of Literature in 1969.
His literary influence by Edgar Allen Poe and the murder-suicide of his parents can be seen in his writings. Aiken wrote, "Separate we come, and separate we go, And this be it known, is all that we know."
Countless visitors from all around the globe have raised a toast to Savannah's poet. Although it may seem fitting to pay respect to Aiken by enjoying a martini at his memorial bench (located in the Bonaventure Cemetery which says, "Cosmos Mariner, Destination Unknown"), alcohol is actually forbidden at the cemetery. Instead, grab your solo cup martini and enjoy the other sites and sounds of Savannah.
4. A Glass of Madeira Wine
Madeira wine is a fortified wine (brandy is added after fermentation making it both sweeter and stronger). The wine gets its name from the island of Madiera, a Portuguese island located off of the coast of Morocco.
According to an advertisement in Georgia's first newspaper, Madeira wine has been imported to Savannah since at least the early 1760's. Savannah went on to become a major importer of Madeira wine by the 19th century.
Even George Washington and Thomas Jefferson have been known to enjoy Madeira. Cheers to Savannah and this nation's forefathers with a glass of this sweet dessert wine.
Raise your glass to pirates of the past, like Captain Flint of Treasure Island fame. While Captain Flint was fictional, pirates were indeed real and sailed up and down the Eastern coast.
Pirates and rum go together like peanut butter and jelly or coffee and doughnuts. As such, rum is better when it is made into a cocktail. Instead of having a shot, enjoy light rum and dark rum mixed with 151 floated on top with cranberry, pineapple, & orange juice in a Skull Crusher. (You can get this tasty concoction at The Pirates' House on East Broad Street.)
But don't be like Captain Flint and drink too much rum. (If you don't remember the outcome, let me remind you - he died in Savannah due to the effects of rum.)
6. Chatham Artillery Punch
Named after the local militia, Chatham Artillery Punch has been enjoyed in Savannah since the late 1700's. There are mixed stories of its origin, but let's just say that a horse bucket may have been used to make it regardless of which version you choose to believe.
Known as possibly the strongest drink in American history, Chatham Artillery Punch is made with Catawba wine, rum, tea, lemons, maraschino cherries, oranges, and Champagne, it's definitely a drink for the history books.
7. Mead at Savannah Bee Company
Mead might be one of the oldest drinks known to mankind. While most people associate mead with the Middle Ages, the historical evidence points to "honey wine" being drunk in China 7,000 years ago. Although referred to as wine, mead is neither wine nor beer.
But what does this ancient "nectar of the gods" have to do with Savannah? That's where the Savannah Bee Company comes in to picture. Officially established in 2002, Savannah Bee Company has been selling "Queen of the Honey World" Tupelo honey. (Tupelo honey is produced in Tupelo ecosystem of the Altamaha and Apalachicola River Basins of Georgia and Florida.)
In addition to honey, the Savannah flagship store on Broughton Street has a mead bar and offers mead tastings with six varieties waiting to be sampled.
8. Edgar's Cup
If you are in the heart of the historic district and crave an adult libation, then head to The DeSoto Savannah for an Edgar's Cup.
Edgar's Proof and Provisions is located inside The DeSoto and offers an intimate indoor environment or a cozy outdoor option. They have two specialty cocktails, one of which is Edgar's Cup. The smooth cocktail is made with Edgar’s Truth Bourbon, named after the owner's father. (The other cocktail is made with vodka from a local distillery.)
The Prohibition Museum
Section 1 of the 18th Amendment states, "After one year from the ratification of this article the manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors within, the importation thereof into, or the exportation thereof from the United States and all territory subject to the jurisdiction thereof for beverage purposes is hereby prohibited."
Here's a quick look at the only museum dedicated to all things Prohibition:
In all seriousness, please drink responsibly. Don't drink and drive. If you find that you have a problem with alcohol, don't drink any of the aforementioned drinks and please contact Alcoholics Anonymous, your pastor, or a friend. Get help somewhere today.
What's your favorite drink in Savannah?
Heading to Savannah? Be sure to check out these other posts before you go: