November 15: Jefferson’s Cornerstone

JeffersonIt’s not the most exciting day for historical events that we can tie into drinks, so instead let’s look at a key event in the construction of a classic American monument. When people think of the national monuments of Washington, D. C., the ones that first come to mind are the probably the “big two” monuments (Washington and Lincoln) or one of the somewhat more recent monuments that pay tribute to the people and events of the 20th century (Martin Luther King Jr, Vietnam War). Today, however, we’re not going to pay heed to those monuments, instead we’re going to look at the poor overlooked middle child of the District’s memorials: The Jefferson Memorial; and it was on this day in 1939 that Franklin Roosevelt personally oversaw the laying of the cornerstone of the Jefferson Memorial.

The Jefferson is a beautiful piece of architecture. It’s a neoclassical masterpiece inspired by the Roman Pantheon and the University of Virginia Rotunda, which was fittingly designed by Jefferson himself. The four main walls of the rotunda are covered in quotes from Jefferson’s greatest political works, including the Declaration of Independence. The fascinating thing, to me at least, is how one approaches the Jefferson Memorial. With the rest of D. C.’s major monuments, one approaches the monument by walking towards the entrance. The Jefferson however is placed so that its entrance is facing the Tidal Basin. As such, when approaching the Jefferson Memorial from the street, you actually have to walk around the side of the building, until you come across its steps and finally you see the iconic, heroic statue of America’s third president. For me, this sense of anticipation mixed with a little surprise gives the Jefferson Memorial a larger sense of grandeur.

The Memorial would be officially opened by President Roosevelt on April 13, 1943, the 200th anniversary of Jefferson’s birth. The bronze statue of Jefferson wasn’t installed inside the dome until 1947, before that a painted plaster cast of the statue stood in its place.

Fittingly, today’s drink comes from Washington D. C. The D. C. Four Seasons has a lovely cocktail called The Jefferson. It’s a wonderful twist on the Manhattan that adds a bit of sweetness in the form of the French black currant liqueur Creme de Mure.

The Jefferson

  • 2 ounces Bullet Bourbon
  • 3/4 Carpano Antica Sweet Vermouth
  • 1/2 Santhenay Creme de Mure
  • 2 dashes Fee Brothers Old Fashioned Aromatic Bitters

Pour all ingredients into a mixing glass with ice. Stir and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a lemon peel.

Tomorrow: We visit Havana.

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