Cocktail Crafters Win Heritage Award

A costumed interpreter mixes colonial-era cocktails for a program at Historic London Town in Edgewater. Photo: Historic London Town.

By Kimberly Kweder

Tucked away on the South River, “colonial drinking” one cup at a time has been gaining the hearts and minds of visitors at Historic London Town and Gardens in Edgewater since April.

Although guzzling “grog” is not an antidote to COVID-19 but rather known historically to fight off scurvy, London Town and Gardens made it their mission to give a dose of history while entertaining during a pandemic. 

The William Brown House—a drinking tavern—was once the place for sharing the news and doing business, a practice widely accepted during colonial times. This National Historic Landmark began its life in 1760 as a tavern on the bluffs of the South River before becoming Anne Arundel County’s Almshouse from the 1820s through 1965. Although the tavern is closed for repairs, that didn’t stop from staff creating something special outdoors for visitors to the site.

“We saw a need in the community where people can go somewhere safely outdoors. We thought, ‘why not have a cocktail experience?’” says London Town’s Deputy Director Lauren Silberman. “It’s informal, and it’s really taken off, and connects people to history and storytelling.” She credits Director of Public Programs Diana Klein and Public History Specialist Claire Goode for developing the inventive series. 

Guests learn about flavorful and punchy concoctions like “bumbo,” a rum drink with water, sugar and nutmeg as well as a punch simply called “A Pleasant and Grateful Sort of Punch.” And grog, which is a diluted rum drink sometimes mixed with sugar, limes, and lemons.

Colonial Cocktails offer visitors two drinks per person; lasts for about an hour on Thursday nights, hosted once or twice a month; and the program is capped to 25 people. The guests learn about the recipes and then mix their own drinks. “There’s a lot of measuring cups involved!” Silberman said.

Four Rivers Heritage Area recognized Historic London for their clever take on colonial culture earlier this month with an award for the 2021 Heritage Tourism Product. Fitting as it is also the site’s 50th anniversary.

The Four Rivers Heritage Area’s 18th Annual Heritage Awards recognize individuals, organizations, partnerships, programs and products that contribute “significantly to the community by interpreting, promoting, preserving, researching and/or supporting our historical legacy,” states the website.

“This year’s honorees are outstanding examples of the excellence of the many heritage-related efforts in our community. We are excited to share their stories and achievements with new audiences, and we congratulate all those who made these important projects a success,” says Executive Director Carol Benson.

Glenn Campbell, senior historian at Historic Annapolis, won the Heritage Leadership Award for his work engaging thousands of visitors, locals and visitors alike. A new museum exhibit is scheduled later in the month called Annapolis: An American Story.

Full list of winners:

2021 Heritage Tourism Product (Exhibit) Award – Annapolis Maritime Museum and Park for its new Permanent Exhibit, “Our Changing Waterfront” 

2021 Heritage Tourism Product (Event Series) Award – Historic London Town and Gardens, for its “Colonial Cocktails” series

2021 Heritage Volunteers of the Year Award – Susie Cosden and Cynthia Czubat of the Galesville Heritage Society

2021 Heritage Professional of the Year Award – Catherine Rogers Arthur of the Maryland State Archives.

2021 Heritage Interpreter of the Year Award – Barry Gay, of the Galesville Community Center Organization and The Lost Towns Project

2021 Heritage Leadership Award – Glenn Campbell of Historic Annapolis

2021 Patricia Barland Leadership Award – T.C. Magnotti, a founder of the Captain Avery Museum in Shady Side