The history of Raleigh begins with a bar! In fact, a little cocktail known as the Cherry Bounce shaped the future of our city. In the 1700’s, North Carolina’s politicians and leaders had to travel all the way to the coastal cities of New Bern to conduct business. During all these treks, they often stopped in local taverns to get food, drinks, and sleep. Because of this, taverns and alcohol played a large role in politics.
Eventually, it was decided that the capital should move to a more central location. Larger communities like Fayetteville, Hillsborough, and Charlotte threw their hat in the ring to become the new Capital; however, after several votes, no city had come out on top. As a result, the delegates were given authority to determine North Carolina’s new capital. They decided the new capital should be no less than 10 miles from their favorite watering hole, where they had often visited in their travels —Isaac Hunter’s Tavern.
Hunter served a delicious version of this sweet cocktail with aged cherries and smooth brown liquor, known as the Cherry Bounce. Although the City of Raleigh did not yet exist, it was chosen as the capital based on the location of Hunter’s Tavern and his delicious cocktail. In those days, the community surrounding the tavern was known as Bloomsbury. Because of the tavern’s location, Bloomsbury was chosen as the place where we would build a new capital city: Raleigh.
However, the Cherry Bounce wasn’t yet done influencing history. The delegates had to determine whose land would be used as the centerhold of the new city. While Hunter seemed to be likely to win due to his tavern’s role in choosing the location of the capital, Joel Lane swooped in at the last second, inviting the delegates to his home and serving an ever better version of the cocktail. The next day, for reasons that have never been fully determined (but likely have to do with whatever happened the night before when Lane got them drunk on Cherry Bounce) the delegates chose to use Lane’s land instead of Hunter’s.
Today, Joel Lane is known as the Father of Raleigh, and his house has been preserved as a museum. Isaac Hunter’s tavern, however, is decaying in the woods. Barely even a foundation remains.
Want to taste the cocktail that changed North Carolina history? An authentic version of the cocktail is served up at the final stop of our Drunk History Walking Tour, which includes visiting four bars and getting four complimentary drinks while touring downtown’s secrets and hotspots!
Want to explore more of Raleigh’s secret history? Visit secret tunnels, underground spaces, and abandoned mansions and hospitals on our Hidden History & Urban Exploration Tour.