Wednesday, August 28, 2019

History in a Glass Celery Edition

The History in a Glass series, at the Orange County Regional History Center, (65 E Central Blvd, Orlando, FL 32801) featured three local craft bartenders who competed for bragging rights by creating libations linked to historical themes and artifacts. The June edition was about the history of celery in Central Florida. Pam Schwartz, the chief curator made herself a crown of celery stalks for the evening. I set up to sketch backstage behind the bartenders looking out over the crowd enjoying the libations. Lite bites for the evening were supplied by Hawkers Asian Street Fare.

Now on to the history behind the drinks... 100 years ago Sanford, Florida was undergoing major economic shifts. Steamboats were being replaced by steam locomotives and the citrus industry experienced a a series of huge freezes, destroying all the crops. The population plummeted as crops were abandoned.  

I.H. Terwilliger stayed after the freezes and is reputed to have planted the first celery crops grown in Sanford in 1896. More people came to plant celery and by 1898 Sanford's celery was known nationwide. Celery was being grown across more than 6,000 acres in the Central Florida area, producing 73% of the nation's celery. Sanford became known as Celery City. There were roughly 553 celery farms in the area in the early 1900s. That number dwindled down to just 22 by the end of World War II.

Three downtown bartenders mixed libations based on this history of celery. They were instructed to use celery in their concoctions. After tasting each of the drinks the attendees got to vote on their favorite history themed libation. Justin from, The Courtesy Bar, prepared a cocktail influenced by Central Florida's resurgence after the death of the citrus industry called Phoenix Rising. The tasty drink included peach and orange blossom vodka, the Florida Key lime, and ITALICUS, an Italian liqueur made with rose petals, and it was this cocktail that earned him the title of  Celery King. 

Prints are available for each sketch for $250 and many originals can be purchased for $400. White museum grade shadow box frames are $100 more. You can e-mail Thor at

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