Sussex Tavern at Rabbit’s Ferry House - Gastro Obscura

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Gastro Obscura

Sussex Tavern at Rabbit’s Ferry House

Sip colonial-era cocktails at this monthly recreation of a 1740 watering hole. 


When you visit Lewes, Delaware, you’ll make it about four seconds before learning from a sign or local that the town is the first town in the first state in the United States. 

With historical ties like that, it’s only right that the Lewes Historical Society celebrates in style. On the first Friday of each month, Rabbit’s Ferry House, on the LHS’s Shipcarpenter Street campus hosts a drinking experience fit for a Founding Father. 

Rabbit’s Ferry House itself has a complicated history. From 1920 until 1965, it served as a school for Black and Indigenous students. After the United States Supreme Court put an end to educational segregation, the students moved into the larger school system and the school itself became a community center. Today, a series of historical buildings, complete with reenactors, surround the house itself. 

Inside Rabbit’s Ferry House, a tavern originally built in 1740 is brought back to life as Sussex Tavern. The bartenders here serve colonial-era cocktails based on an 18th-century ledger in the LHS archives. These libations include grog (“a sailor’s ration of dark rum blenders with sugar and a touch of lime to keep the scurvy away”) and sangaree (“This red wine punch dates to the 1730s… and was a favorite of Lewes’s Dr. White in 1813”). 

Mary Rockett’s milk punch, a mixture of brandy, fruit juice, and milk, is another favorite. Adding milk causes the concoction to coagule, creating curds that are then strained, leaving behind an especially smooth elixir. 

There’s also live period-specific music courtesy of the Blarney Pilgrims, a gaggle of musicians in period garb who play the harp, piano, and even the spoons. Thanks to song sheets spread throughout the tavern (and a couple grogs), everyone can come together to sing sea shanties. 

So, if it’s the first Friday of the month and you find yourself in the first town in the first state, have the first cocktails in the first bar as well.

Know Before You Go

Sussex Tavern can also be booked for private events with 25 or more guests.

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December 7, 2023

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