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Thoughts of our country’s heritage enter our minds around the Fourth of July, but details about the founding fathers and who they were can be overlooked.

George Washington, the first president of the U.S., was a man of ambition, including a love for whiskey. Washington’s presidency lasted from 1789-97, during the infancy of our country. Washington owned a large farm in Mount Vernon, Virginia, on the banks of the Potomac River.

In 1797, Washington established the largest production distillery of whiskey in the United States of the time at his farm. He wasn’t like the distillers of the time, who had lineage in the art of distilling. Instead, he was approached by his farm manger, James Anderson, who had the idea of starting a distillery.

Anderson was a Scottish immigrant employed by Washington and had distilling in his blood. Anderson told Washington the Mount Vernon farm was a great place for such an endeavor with its fertile land and abundance of fresh water.

In 1797, construction began on a stone building to house five copper pot stills, the building being approximately 2,200 square feet, larger than most contemporary commercial distilleries that were about 800 square feet. The distillery produced around 11,000 gallons of whiskey a year.

The Mount Vernon Distillery operated continuously 12 months out of the year, producing a whiskey with a mash bill of 60 percent rye, 35 percent corn and 5 percent malted barley.

Unlike common whiskeys of today, Mount Vernon Whiskey was not aged, could have been distilled up to four times, and some batches were flavored with cinnamon or persimmon.

As we sit back and enjoy our country’s 241st birthday, grab a bottle of your favorite whiskey and remember where we are and where we have come from. Whiskey has played a substantial role in our country’s heritage and the booming spirits industry of today.

Here are a few whiskey recipes for your holiday imbibing.

CLASSIC WHISKEY SOUR

2 ounces whiskey

1 ounce lemon juice

1 ounce simple syrup (you can substitute agave nectar or 2 tablespoons sugar)

1/2 ounce egg white

Add all ingredients and shake vigorously for 10 seconds in a Boston shaker (use a protein shaker if you don’t have the bar equipment). Serve over ice.

Note: Make it a whiskey smash by muddling fresh raspberries or blackberries into the cocktail.

WATERMELON WHISKEY COOLER

2 ounces whiskey

1 ounce lemon juice

1 ounce simple syrup (you can substitute agave nectar or 2 tablespoons sugar)

2 ounces puréed fresh watermelon

Ginger beer, to serve

Mint garnish

Add all ingredients in a tumbler and serve over ice. Top with ginger beer and garnish with mint.

Dustin O’Hara is a certified mixologist and spirits educator for Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits of Nevada.

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