History Lesson: Whiskey Run at the Tides Inn

A weekend by the river usually calls for a great cocktail at the end of the day. There’s nothing like disconnecting and watching the sunset over the rivers and Bay. The only sounds around you are of family and friends, gentle waves rolling onto the shore, and whatever wildlife is hanging out nearby. One of our region’s most enchanting sunset-watching spots is the Tides Inn

Today at the Tides, you can order up cocktails like Lancaster Lemonade and Palomas from the Golden Eagle Grill on the golf course, the Chesapeake Restaurant, and the new Fish Hawk restaurant by the pool.  The resort even offers mixology classes at Fish Hawk during the summer months. 

It wasn’t always so easy to order up a drink here, though. 

The Tides opened in 1947. E.A. Stephens and his wife Ann (aka Big Steve and Miss Ann) transformed a 25-acre farm overlooking Carter’s Creek. The hotel became a beacon for families and couples looking for peace, fun, and riverside elegance.

“It was always a fun place to be and there was always something to,” says River Realm native Tom Saunders. “During the 1940s and 1950s, it was really the first of its kind in our region.“

Of course, he says, all that fun sometimes called for a splash of booze.

You couldn’t buy liquor by the drink at that time,” Saunders says. “It wasn’t legal to walk up and order a mixed drink from a bar.”

Lancaster County was a dry county at that time. That meant you had to bring your own bottle of liquor to the Tides Inn to enjoy a hard drink. During your stay, your bottle was kept in one of more than 100 handmade walnut lockers in the Golden Eagle room.

“The Tides would bring you what they called ‘the set up.’ That included glass, ice, mixers, and garnish,” he says. 

Tides employees would help guests create drinks using the liquor they brought along with them.  If you showed up to the resort without liquor, that was okay, you just had to take a ride. That boat ride was called the “Whisky Run.”

On Saturday mornings, guests could board the 127-foot yacht known fondly as Miss Ann. Together, they would travel across the river to the town of Urbanna to purchase liquor from the state-run liquor store. 

While the laws had changed by the time Saunders joined the staff at the Tides Inn, the resort kept up the Whiskey Run as a fun homage to the past for many years. 

“Part of what makes this area so special is that we were isolated for long time, which means unique traditions could be created and carried on,” he says.  

Today, you can still see the lockers at the Tides Inn, but you can freely order a variety of cocktails–no need to byob. Tides Inn now features an exclusive private label of bourbon. For almost three months, the Tides Inn and renowned distiller Brian Prewitt of A. Smith Bowmen Distillery, worked to craft the quintessential bourbon to be poured while enjoying the views of Carter’s Creek. 

The enchanting, yet laid back resort has everything you need for a week long getaway with the family or a quick weekend trip with the honey: golf, spa, pool, boating, kayaking, fishing, crabbing, croquet, cornhole, and more. Families and friends return year after year for a true getaway, still as classic and pure as when the resort opened. 


Thirsty? Come Have a Drink!

We created a cocktail guide to the River Realm. Find out where to find the best bloody mary’s and most creative concoctions here. Our chefs and bartenders are always up to something delicious! Click here to read the guide. 

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