I have one more reason to love the sustainable kitchen gardens at Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello. They are part of the inspiration behind Sage, a new botanical spirit by Art In The Age of Mechanical Reproduction, a boutique store in Philadelphia that specializes in “thought-provoking products of real cultural capital.” They sell handmade art, clothing, jewelry, home décor and more. They’re also in the organic liquor business, creating spirits inspired by traditional American libations from, as Art in the Age says, “simpler times.”


Last week, I had the fun task of heading into Philadelphia to the vegan, vegetable-centric restaurant Vedge for a preview tasting of Art in the Age’s newest spirit, Sage. Here’s the cool story behind Sage.


Thomas Jefferson had a horticulturist named Bernard McMahon grow and chronicle 130 plants that Lewis and Clark discovered on their famous expedition. The result was a book called “Flora Americae.” Jefferson used that book to help him create his kitchen gardens at Monticello where he grew plants native to America instead of what was grown in traditional English gardens.


Art in the Age created Sage to be the like “garden gins” that Americans in Jefferson’s time created from what grew in their American gardens. Sage is made with several botanicals chronicled in “Flora Americae” and grown at the Monticello gardens during Jefferson’s lifetime including thyme, rosemary, lavender, fennel and sage.


The Monticello cocktail made with Sage, ginger-agave syrup, and lemon.


You might expect Sage to taste like a garden, but that’s not what it tastes like at all. I tried it both straight and in a cocktail appropriately called Monticello. Straight, it tasted a bit like gin — warm and dry, a little woodsy, with a slight burn going down. Very pleasant. The Monticello cocktail was slightly sweet and lemony. The Sage enhanced it but it did not overwhelm it.


Art in the Age makes four organic spirits: Sage, Root (inspired by traditional root beer  — nothing like the soda we drink today), Snap (made with blackstrap molasses and ginger), and Rhubarb Tea (with rhubarb, carrots, lemons and more). You can’t get these spirits at the Art in the Age store because of Pennsylvania’s liquor laws. You can, however, purchase them nationwide in liquor stores, or you can order them from the online sellers mentioned on Art in the Age’s Spirits Locator page


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