The wines and spirits in this exhibition were collected by the Livingston and Kean families over the course of nearly two centuries. They were put aside, perhaps intended to be enjoyed on some later occasion or to be saved for posterity, but for whatever reason they remained undisturbed, only to be discovered when a museum renovation in 2015 uncovered a forgotten cellar door to reveal two hundred years of wine and spirits in America.
The collection is a “living history” of a different kind. Usually, our connection with the past is through our sight and touch, not only in museums but through the objects and photos in our own homes. One of our only opportunities to experience history through taste and smell is found in the liquor cabinet or the wine cellar, where we can open some long-forgotten bottles and know what our forefathers experienced. After their discovery, several bottles in this collection were opened and tasted, and found to be in perfect condition, preserved from the time of the early American republic until today in glass bottle with natural cork stoppers.
The collection covers nearly the entire history of alcohol in the United States, from the earliest days of the republic to the modern era, from unknown brands and homemade liqueurs to brand names that have resonated for hundreds of years, as well as imported and domestic wines and spirits of all kind. The 1796 Lenox Madeira found at Liberty Hall is the same wine that Alexander Hamitlon might have used to toast a political success against Aaron Burr. The 1876 Old Crow Bourbon would give you a taste of what President Ulysses S. Grant and Mark Twain were known to enjoy. President Calvin Coolidge was a fan of Tokay wine while Oscar Wilde was a fan of Absinthe, perhaps The Pernod Fils brand. This timeline reflects the collection at Liberty Hall Museum, from the date of the earliest bottle to the most recent.
You are allowed to explore our wine cellar as part of the Regular House Tour that we offer during the week. You will be able to see first- hand the bottles that were just mentioned and also read some information for each bottle. You can learn about the history of importance of corks and a timeline of each bottle that in our display case.