top of page

A Sin and A Secret: The Peggy Stewart Affair

Welcome back to another "A Sin and A Secret." Mix yourself a drink based on a colonial recipe and then curl with a completely true, completely salacious story. Enjoy a new #ASinAndASecret post every week. Read more in the series here.

The Burning of the Peggy Stewart, Francis Blackwell Mayer, 1896, Courtesy of the Maryland Commission on Artistic Property

Did you know that Annapolis had its own tea party, much like the famous one in Boston?

Our story begins with two London Town businessmen: Anthony Stewart and James Dick. The two were both business partners and family. Stewart had married Dick’s daughter Jean. The duo owned numerous lucrative businesses, including a store in Annapolis.

Paintings of Anthony Stewart and Jean Dick, Both paintings by John Hesselius, c.1760s, Courtesy of the Museum of Fine Arts Boston

However, the first crack in their partnership came in February 1770. The brig “Good Intent” sailed into Annapolis, laden with forbidden goods from London. Tensions had begun heating between the colonies and England, and the British government had begun taxing many items the colonists’ relied on. In response to these heavy taxes, locals had decided to ban tea and other taxed imported goods. Dick had even helped create the agreement that had expressly forbidden the goods on-board.

Chastised by their fellow Annapolis merchants, Dick and Stewart were forced to send the Good Intent back without unloading a single item. This put them deeply into debt to the London merchant James Buchanan. Their rival (and sometimes customer) Joshua Johnson shared the details in his gossipy letters, “I am told they own J.B. & Son not less than 10 or 12,000 pound and that he had determined not to pay their bills or send them any more goods.”

Despite the setback, Dick and Stewart Company continued operating a store in London Town – and they found innovative ways of making money. In 1773 – apparently seeking to avoid paying custom officials – a letter signed by them mentioned needing a vessel fast enough “to pass and repass cleverly.”

Among their vessels was the “Peggy Stewart,” named after Stewart’s daughter and Dick’s granddaughter. In 1774 – well after the Boston Tea Party – the Peggy Stewart was surreptitiously loaded with a cargo of tea by their merchant in London (apparently against the captain’s objections and his American counterpart’s wishes). Nonetheless, when the Peggy Stewart arrived in Annapolis, Stewart insisted on paying the tax on the tea, even when the collector warned him not to.

Locals became incensed by this violation of the non-importation agreement. Mobs gathered in Annapolis from around the colony. Some even threatened Stewart with hanging! Charles Carroll of Carrollton suggested offloading the tea and burning it under the gallows, but the mob wanted more.

Stewart himself was rowed out to the Peggy Stewart and set her on fire. She burned to the waterline, destroying the cargo. This finally satiated the mob.


The Peggy Stewart Tea Punch and Gunpowder Green Tea Options!

In honor of the Peggy Stewart Affair, we have prepared multiple cocktail recipes:

  • The Peggy Stewart Tea Punch (developed long after the burning of the ship)

  • Gunpowder Green Tea Infused Gin

  • Gunpowder Green Tea Cocktail (using the Infused Gin)

The Peggy Stewart Tea Punch

Recipe by Mrs. J. Pierre Bernard, Peggy Stewart House, Annapolis

  • 3 pints cold water

  • 8 teaspoonful best tea

  • Thin rind and juice of 8 lemons (about a cup of juice)

  • 1½ pounds cut sugar

  • 1 quart rum

  • ½ pint whiskey

Let tea boil, leaving lemon and rind in. While on the fire throw in pulp of lemons (having squeezed out juice). When boiled sufficiently, pour off into a bowl. Put in sugar, juice of the lemons and add rum and whiskey if you like. Pour over ice to serve.

Gunpowder Green Tea Infused Gin

  • ¼ cup gunpowder green tea leaves

  • 1 (750 ml) bottle of gin such a Bombay Sapphire

  • Honey Syrup

  • 1 cup honey

  • 1 cup water

Gunpowder Green Tea Cocktail

  • 1 ½ oz infused gin (see above recipe)

  • ½ salted honey syrup

  • ½ oz lemon juice

  • 1-2 dashes of your favorite bitters

To Prep

  1. Combine green tea and gin into a large bottle and let sit and infuse for at least 2 hours.

  2. After 2 hours strain the infusion and put back in the original gin bottle. It would be a good idea to label the infused gin.

  3. Combine water and honey into a small pot. Bring to a boil, stir to combine, then turn off and allowed to cool.

  4. To make the drink

  5. In a shaker full of ice combine infused gin, honey syrup, lemon juice, and bitters (if using).

  6. Shake until the shaker is frosted or completely cold to the touch.

  7. Strain into a glass with crushed ice.

  8. Serve and enjoy!


And don't forget to sign up today for Colonial Cocktails: Bounce & Bumbo on Thursday, July 23, 2020, 6:30pm.

From punches to bounces, syllabubs to juleps, colonists imbibed a wide variety of alcoholic beverages. At Colonial Cocktails, you’ll get to make and enjoy two historical drinks and learn about colonial tavern culture. This session will explore Bounce, a pleasant concoction of fruit-steeped brandy, and Bumbo, a common rum punch. 

For the safety of participants and staff, this event will be held outside with appropriate distancing, group sizes, and cleaning in accordance with CDC and local guidance.

Members: $25

Non-Members: $30 (Become one today!)

Pre-Registration Required

Maximum of 20 attendees

Participants must be 21+

495 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page