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Food Culture at Mount Vernon

George and Martha Washington welcomed thousands of guests to Mount Vernon in the more than 40 years that they lived here. Most of their visitors stayed for meals, enjoying the Washingtons’ famous hospitality and the plentiful food they provided.



Explore our recipes and learn more about food culture at Mount Vernon.

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Dining at Mount Vernon

A number of sources provide insight into meals at Mount Vernon, including some of George Washington's favorite food and drinks. 

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A History of Southern Hospitality

George Washington often described his home as a "well-resorted tavern." The Mount Vernon Ladies' Association continued this tradition when they assumed operations in 1853.

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A Day in the Life of an Enslaved Cook in 1799

The Washingtons' relied on a group of enslaved cooks, butlers, and waiters to serve their guests. 

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Where to Eat

Planning a visit to George Washington's Mount Vernon? Be sure to make time for a special dining experience in a colonial-inspired setting at the Mount Vernon Inn Restaurant or grab a quick bite at the Food Court.

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Washington's Favorite Breakfast

Washington preferred his hoecakes "swimming in butter and honey." One guest surmised that having the hoecakes softened with honey and butter made it easier for Washington to chew his breakfast.

Hoecakes and Honey


George Washington had an affinity for this fortified wine, produced on the Portuguese island of Madeira in the eastern Atlantic.

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A Beer Aficionado

George Washington’s fondness for Madeira wine is well known. Less commonly recognized is his love of good beer.

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Mrs. Washington's Great Cake

Among Martha Washington's surviving papers is a recipe written out by her granddaughter Martha Parke Custis, which calls for 40 eggs worked into four pounds of butter, four pounds of sugar, five pounds of flour, and an equal quantity of fruit.

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Flour and Grains from the Gristmill

George Washington's merchant gristmill was capable of producing 5,000 to 8,000 pounds of flour and cornmeal a day.

During the 1760s, Washington had moved away from tobacco cultivation and began to plant more grains, primarily wheat and corn. The switch to grains gave Washington a dependable cash crop, something tobacco did not provide. With an expanded and more efficient gristmill, Washington could turn his crops into another product, flour, or cornmeal.

In 1791, George Washington upgraded his milling operation by installing improvements invented by Oliver Evans. Today, this milling system is faithfully interpreted, fully functioning, and open to guests seasonally.

visit washington's gristmill

Whiskey and Spirits from the Distillery

In 1799, George Washington's distillery produced nearly 11,000 gallons, making it one of the largest whiskey distilleries in America at the time.

Distilleries were very common in early America. In the 1810 census, there were more than 3,000 distilleries operating in the state of Virginia alone. Washington's distillery was large, measuring 75 x 30 feet (2,250 square feet) while the average distillery was about 20 x 40 feet (800 square feet).

Today, a faithfully reconstructed working distillery produces small-batch spirits on-site and is open to visitors seasonally.

visit washington's distillery

Distilled Spirits from Mount Vernon

Washington was one of the largest whiskey producer in America. Today, we continue the tradition of producing whiskey as well as other small batch distilled spirits at our historic Distillery & Gristmill site. 375ml bottles of the distilled spirits produced at Mount Vernon are available for purchase at the Shops at Mount Vernon.

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Beer was a favorite drink of many people living in eighteenth-century America.

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Like other men of his social class, George Washington had the money and connections to acquire champagne for his table.

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As he travelled throughout the country, George Washington often noted how well grapes were growing as a sign of potential success for the wine industry in America.

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Ice Cream

The first reference to ice cream at Mount Vernon dates to May of 1784, when a "Cream Machine for Ice" was acquired for one pound, thirteen shillings, and three pence.

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Washington often asked captains of vessels carrying fish, flour, and other commodities from Mount Vernon to the West Indies to bring him "A few Pine Apples," sometimes as many as two or three dozen at a time.

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Recipe for Small Beer

“Small beer,” as opposed to typical beer, is notable for its low alcohol content. The recipe’s inclusion in Washington’s diaries during wartime suggests that it was consumed as a regular beverage - and even perhaps an occasional substitute for water - among troops.

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During the colonial era, rum was the preferred alcoholic drink of American colonists. By one estimate, colonists consumed 3.7 gallons annually per head by the time of the American Revolution.

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The Washingtons used several varieties of tea throughout their time at Mount Vernon, including: Bohea, Congo, Green, Gunpowder, Hyson, and Imperial.

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While Americans chose to commemorate peace and victory in a variety of different ways, all of these celebrations had one thing in common. Everywhere people came together to mark the occasion, they passed around glasses and drank toasts.

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Whiskey Production

Although he did not consume whiskey frequently himself, Washington had a significant impact on the whiskey industry in the United States, both by his example as a distiller and through his role in the Whiskey Rebellion.

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