Alcohol from 1700 to 1773: US Colonial Period History


Alcohol from 1700 to 1773 was the end of the Colonial Period in American (US) history. During that time people increased the production of beer, wine, and distilled spirits.

This is Part of a Series

  1. The Early Colonists (Alcohol in the 16th and 17th Centuries).
  2. Colonial Period (Alcohol from 1700 to 1773) 
  3. The New Republic (Alcohol from 1774 to 1829)
  4. Calls for Abstinence (Alcohol from 1830 to 1869)
  5. Temperance Movement Grows (Alcohol from 1870 to 1889)
  6. The Gilded Age (Alcohol from 1890 to 1912)
  7. Promising Future for National Prohibition (Alcohol from 1913 to 1919)
  8. Nation Welcomes Prohibition (Alcohol from 1920 to 1927)
  9. Nation Welcomes Repeal (Alcohol from 1928 to 1933)
  10. The Great Depression (Alcohol from 1934 to 1939) #10
  11. World War II and the Cold War (Drinking and Alcohol from 1940 to 1978)
  12. Anti-Alcohol Sentiment Increases (Alcohol from 1980 to Present)

Hope you enjoy this timeline!

Cir. 1700-1730.

    • Hard cider often served as a currency in the American colonies.1
    • “Housewives in the northern colonies brewed beer every few days, since their product had a short shelf life.”2


alcohol from 1700 to
Gen. James Oglethorpe
    • Grapes were first cultivated in Georgia.6
    • The first prohibition in the New World was made in Georgia when Gen. James Oglethorpe decreed that “the importation of ardent spirits is illegal.”7
    • Parliament passed the Molasses Act to tax molasses, rum and sugar into the American colonies from non-British foreign colonies. It was largely ineffective because of widespread smuggling.8

1734. Mary Lisle, the first known commercial “brewster” in the New World took over over her late father’s brewhouse in Philadelphia, which she operated until 1751.9

1738. “Major William Horton builds the first brewery in the deep south at Jekyll Island, Georgia.”10

1748. Wine production began as early as 1748 in South Carolina.11


    • MA had 63 distilleries producing rum.12
    • The first sobriety circles were established among Native American tribes. These sometimes later became the nuclei for temperance organizations.13
    • Jesuit priests make alter wine in Louisiana as early as 1750.14

1752. Nathaniel Ames wrote in his Almanack that “Strong Waters were formerly used by Direction of Physicians; but now Mechanicks and low-li’d Labourers drink Rum like Fountain-Water, and they can infinitely better endure it than the idle, unactive and sedentary Part of Mankind, but DEATH is in the botom of the cup of every one.”15

1753. A traveler compiled a list of all the 48 beverages he encountered while going through the DE Valley. Only three contained no alcohol.16

1757. George Washington wrote a recipe for beer in his diary, reflecting his interest in the subject.17

1758. When George Washington ran for the Virginia House of Burgesses, his election expenses included 35 pounds for liquor.18

1764. The Sugar Act (“American Revenue Act of 1764”) modified the Molasses Act of 1733 that was about to expire.  The new act reduced the tax on molasses while added taxes to sugar, certain wines, coffee and other products. It was strictly enforced, causing an almost immediate decline in the rum industry in the colonies.19


    • The British Army built the first brewery west of the Allegheny Mountains at Fort Pitt (Pittsburgh, PA).20
    • The first brewery built outside the original thirteen colonies was constructed in the French colonial settlement of Kaskaskia in what is now IL.21

1767. London’s Royal Society of the Arts recognized two wineries from New Jersey for producing the first quality wine derived from colonial agriculture.22

1769. Wine cultivation was introduced into CA from Mexico and wine making became its oldest industry.23

1770s. During the 1770s, “The Wilderness Road, the northern route over the Alleghenies from Virginia, had whiskey for sale at strategic points along its length when it was little more than a path through the forest” and “…stills were the largest, more complex, and most valuable man-made objects to be carried over the mountains.”24

Now visit other parts of this series!

1772. England developed a new style of beer called Porter (a mixture of dark to light malts). Then it was exported to the Colonies. However, it failed to gain popularity.25

1773. John Wesley condemned distilling as a sin and called for its prohibition.26

Resources: Alcohol from 1700 to 1773: US Colonial Period

Web Pages

Popular Readings


  1. Cohen, N. The Comeback of a Colonial Beverage. Nov 10, 2010.

2.  Blocker, J. Drinking in the US, 1400-2000. In: Holt. M., (ed.) Alcohol: A History. Pp. 225-240. P. 227.

3. Blank

4. Cherrington, E. The Evolution of Prohibition, 1920, p. 32.

5.  _________. p. 33.

6. Stevenson, T. The Sotheby’s Wine Book, p. 527.

7. Kobler, J. The Rise and Fall of Prohib, p. 35.

8. Molasses Act.

9. Hist of Am Beer.

10. Ibid.

11. Stevenson, p. 529.

12. Rum Hist.

13. White, W. History of Addiction Treatment.

14. Stevenson, p. 528.

15. Lee, H. How Dry We Were,  p. 22.

16. Grimes, W. A Cultural Hist of Am Drink, pp. 44-45.

17. Nachel, M. Beer for Dummies, p. 301.

18. Krout, J. The Origins of Prohib, pp. 39-40.

19. The Sugar Act.

20. Hist of Am Beer.

21. Ibid.

22. Stevenson, p. 520.

23. Ford, Gene. Wines, Brews, & Spirits, p. 17.

24. Gately, I. Drink: A Cultural Hist of Alcohol, p. 216, p. 17.

25. Hist of Am Beer.

26. Cherrington, pp. 37-38.