Virginia Celebrates Its 400th Anniversary as the Birthplace of American Spirits

This fall, Virginia celebrates the 400th anniversary of being the birthplace of American spirits. To recognize this achievement, the Virginia Distillers Association has launched the “Bottling Up For 400 Years: 1620–2020” campaign to shine a spotlight on the commonwealth’s history of pioneering quality spirits and distillers using century-old techniques inspired by our founding fathers.

At Berkeley Plantation in the fall of 1620, Virginia colonist George Thorpe distilled the first batch of whiskey made from corn, which he called “corn beere.” This was the first strong drink crafted in what would become English-speaking America, an ancestor of bourbon.

Here are a few more fun facts from the Virginia Distillers Association about Virginia’s history with whiskey:

  • In the 1700s, Scottish and Irish immigrants brought their recipes to Virginia for “uisce beatha,” Gaelic for “water of life.” The settlers made their whiskey without aging it. The recipe remains the same for traditional Appalachian whiskey.
  • Bourbon County, Kentucky was formerly a part of Virginia until the Louisiana Purchase in the 1780s.
  • George Washington was not only a gentleman farmer, but he also owned and operated the country’s largest rye whiskey distillery at Mount Vernon in the late 1790s.
  • In 1810, U.S. census record indicate there were more than 3,600 distilleries operating in Virginia. Many were destroyed later, during the Civil War.
  • During Prohibition, the 1920–1930s, more sugar was imported to Franklin County—known as the “Moonshine Capital of the World”—than all of New York City combined.

Raise a glass to Virginia as the Birthplace of American Spirits with this fall-inspired concoction from A. Smith Bowman in Fredericksburg, the oldest distillery in Virginia.

A. Smith Bowman bourbon
Photo courtesy of Wild Heart Films/Aubrey Gee


The Remedy


1.5 ounces Bowman Brothers Bourbon
1 tsp. chamomile-infused simple syrup
2 dashes bitters
Ginger ale
Orange Peel


Place ice in a rocks glass, add Bowman Brothers Bourbon, syrup and bitters. Fill to top with ginger ale. Garnish with orange peel.

Other Articles that may Interest You:

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Virginia Brewery and Distillery Collaborate for New Releases
Try These Canned Cocktails Made in Virginia

Written By

Melissa Stewart