George Washington Ice Cream Social

In addition to being the “birthplace of our nation”, Philadelphia is also the birthplace of American Ice Cream. Ice Cream has been around for Centuries, supposedly originating in China around 3000 BC as a combination of rice and milk over ice. Marco Polo is said to have learned of this delicacy from Kublai Khan and brought it back to Italy in the early 14th Century where stirring techniques and flavoring experiments elevated the dish considerably. Not surprisingly, it’s popularity spread northward through France where they added eggs like they do to everything, making a richer, smoother more custard like confection. But the lighter version that we Americans are most familiar with as ice cream, Cream, Sugar and Flavorings is called Philadelphia Style Ice Cream. While not as rich as French Style ice cream, it requires no cooking, and allows the natural flavors to stand on their own a bit more… quicker, easier, bolder flavor… sounds pretty American to me.

It is fortuitous that the founding of our nation, the city where the Declaration of Independence was signed and the man who led the Revolutionary army to victory can all be tied together with a sweet, cool, refreshing dessert that is the perfect treat on a hot July day.

George and Martha Washington were famous for their hospitality. They held well known, weekly, informal gatherings at their house in Philadelphia throughout George’s presidency. In the summer months it was very likely one would find ice cream served at these gatherings. Abigail Adams mentioned being “entertained with Ice creems and Lemonade” at one of these parties in the summer of 1789.
In the humid East Coast summer days before refrigeration, ice cream would have been a luxury worth mentioning. The Washington’s had an ice house on their property. This is a underground chamber where winter ice and snow is packed and kept cool for use in the summer months. This is where the ice cream would have been prepared.

The Mount Vernon household records show that ice cream was a central feature of the Summer Dining Menu there as well. The kitchen inventory included a “Cream Machine for Ice”, two “dble tin Ice Cream moulds” and another one that must have been much fancier costing $7, a dedicated ice cream spoon, two pewter ice cream pots and eight tin pots for the same purpose. Their 309 piece china service included “2 Iceries Compleat” 12 “ice plates” and 36 “ice pots”. And Martha Washington’s own copy of The Art of Cookery, Made Plain and Easy contained ice cream recipes.

While a cold cup of ice cream requires a great deal less effort and expense today, it still holds the power to delight your guests, especially if it is homemade.

Clyde eating Ice Cream

A selection of Red, White and Blue ice creams makes for a fun Patriotic assortment. The colors aren’t quite as vibrant as our flag, it’s more like pink, cream and purple but the sentiment is there. And if you decorate each serving with some extra fruit and a little whip cream, you have all the visual power you need.

This is a simple Summer Party Menu.

Red, White & Blue Ice Cream

Fresh Fruit

George Washington’s Friday Night Party Lemonade

This works great as an ice cream and lemonade only party, or if you want something more substantial, just fire up the grill and cook some burgers, sausages, fish, veggies… George and Martha would approve of any additional hospitality you want to offer.


Strawberry Ice Cream

from The Fresh Kitchen
The Wild Virginia Strawberry is native to North America. It is half of the hybrid used to create the modern garden strawberry that we know best. Like most things American, these strawberries were larger than their European counterparts. They were not actively cultivated until the early 19th Century because they grew so abundantly in the wild.

3/4 lb (12 oz.) strawberries, sliced
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup whole milk
2 cups heavy cream
Pinch of salt
1. In a medium bowl, stir together strawberries, sugar, and vanilla. Let sit for 1 hour, stirring every so often, so the berries release their juices and the sugar dissolves.
2. Pour strawberry mix into a blender and pulse once or twice (not too much, or you’ll lose any chance of having strawberry bits in your ice cream).
3. Add milk, cream, and salt to the blender and pulse until combined and your strawberries are in tiny pieces. Move blender pitcher to the refrigerator and refrigerate at least 1 hour or until thoroughly chilled. This gives the flavors time to blend and mellow.
4. Once the mixture is thoroughly chilled, transfer to your ice cream machine and freeze according to manufacturer’s instructions.

Strawberry Ice Cream

Blueberry Ice Cream

From Cats and Casseroles
July is the month designated by the US Department of Agriculture to celebrate the native North American fruit, the Blueberry “with appropriate ceremonies and activities”. I think a Fourth of July, George Washington Ice Cream Social featuring Blueberry Ice Cream would qualify as an appropriate celebration, don’t you?

1 c. (half-pint) blueberries, rinsed and any stems removed
1/4 c. sugar
1 c. heavy cream
1/3 c. half-and-half
scant 1/2 c. sugar

1. In a small bowl, toss blueberries with 1/4 c. sugar. Cover with plastic wrap and place in refrigerator. Keep refrigerated 2-3 hours, stirring every 30 minutes or so.

2. Mash sugared blueberries in the bowl, using a fork. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together heavy cream and scant 1/2 c. sugar. Whisk in half-and-half. Add blueberries (and the syrup they’ve created) into cream mixture. Whisk for about two minutes.

Churn according to ice cream manufacturer’s instructions. Enjoy right away, or store in freezer in an air-tight container.


Fresh Fruit

Pennsylvania Senator William Maclay described an August 1789 meal with the President and First Lady to include “…iced creams Jellies &ca, then Water Melons Musk Melons apples peaches nuts”


Fresh fruit still has popular today at a summer party, especially with kids. A cool, juicy slice of melon is the perfect compliment to a hot burger or rich ice cream. I have a generous neighbor with a gorgeous, blooming apple tree. So, just like at Mount Vernon, I got to serve apples straight from the orchard!

Washington’s Friday Night Party Lemonade

from Dining with the Washingtons
This is believed to be the recipe that the Washington’s served at their Friday Night Summer Parties in Philadelphia and also at Summer gatherings at Mount Vernon. It is most likely the refreshment that Abigail Adams referred to be served along with her “ice creems”. I have the great fortune of having a lemon tree in my backyard, so I am constantly looking for ways to use lots of lemons. This is an exceptionally refreshing and delightful summer drink, and can be made with or without alcohol and be delicious either way. *It is important to note that there is a lot of zesting involved in this otherwise simple recipe…especially if you are making it for a large crowd.*

Juice and zest of 6 large lemons
4 1/2 cups water, divided, plus more as needed
1 cup sugar, plus more as needed. (The recipe calls for 2 cups of sugar, but I found that to be way too sweet, one cup was plenty… possibly even less… so I say start with one add more if your taste desires it.)
2 cups medium-dry white wine (optional)
Juice of one orange

Put the zest in a medium saucepan, and pour in 2 cups of the water. Cover and bring to a boil. Immediately turn off the heat and let cool to room temperature.

Stir in the lemon juice, add the sugar and stir to dissolve. Strain and add enough of the remaining water and more sugar, if desired, to suit your taste.

Stir in the wine and orange juice, if desired, and chill for at least 1 hour before serving.

Makes about 6 and a half cups.IMG_1830

Streusel Topping

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup packed light brown sugar
3/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, chilled and cubed.
2 cups chopped walnuts

  1. In a bowl of an electric mixer on medium speed, mix the flour, brown sugar, sugar and cinnamon until combined.
  2. Add the butter and mix well until the texture becomes crumbly.
  3. With a wooden spoon, stir in the walnuts.
  4. Use immediately, or transfer to a covered container and store in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.


City Tavern Cooler

I don’t believe this cocktail was authentic to the time. But as liquor tastes have changed significantly over time, I’m not sure we would want a truly authentic 18th Century mixed drink to serve at a party today. This one is based on popular liquors of the day. Jamaican Rum was the most consumed spirit of the time. Whiskey was imported from England and Brandy from France, but both were also distilled stateside and those varieties gained popularity during the Revolution when the importation of alcohol was stopped. For the sake of patriotism, I suggest using domestic brands.

Ice Cubes
2 tablespoons peach brandy (I only had regular brandy, which I used and squeezed the juice of 1/4 peach into the drink)
1 tablespoon Jamaican rum
1 1/2 teaspoons whiskey
1 cup fresh apple cider


  1. Fill in a 12-ounce highball class half full with ice cubes.
  2. Add the peach brandy, rum and whiskey
  3. Add the apple cider.