Each week, the Sip Advisor will alphabetically travel the United States, discovering the best each state has to offer in a variety of subjects. Today, we venture to New Jersey. Although some call it the “Armpit of America,” we’ll reserve judgment. After all, it’s been nicknamed the Garden State for a reason. Let’s find out why:
Motto: “Liberty and Prosperity” – I particularly like that second one and the first one ain’t so bad either.
Food: The Pork Roll (aka Taylor Ham) is usually eaten in slices as part of a sandwich, but can also be used in a hash, called a Jersey Breakfast. John Taylor, from Hamilton Square, popularized the meat product in 1856. There are competing festivals celebrating the Pork Roll, both in Trenton. Add a side of Disco Fries (topped with cheese and gravy) and you’ve got yourself a complete meal.
Drink: Laird’s Applejack (apple brandy) was first produced in New Jersey, all the way back in 1698. It was originally known as Jersey Lightning, which is a name I think they should have kept. Laird & Company is based in Scobeyville, calling themselves America’s Oldest Distiller.
Site to See: Two sites that highlight American freedom can be found in New Jersey, Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty. Ellis Island is the spot were countless immigrants first touched American soil, as the busiest inspection station in the country. Meanwhile, Lady Liberty is situated on land shared by New Jersey and New York and surrounded by New Jersey waters.
Street: The Atlantic City Boardwalk is a major tourist attraction in New Jersey. It is the first American boardwalk, opened on June 26, 1870, and the longest boardwalk in the world. There’s a lot going on along the boardwalk, including casinos, hotels, museums, shopping, restaurants, and much more. A number of movies and TV series have used the boardwalk for filming.
TV Show: The Sopranos, starring James Gandolfini, was one of the most popular TV shows of all-time, documenting the activities of the DiMeo crime family. The crime drama, which ran for six seasons and 86 episodes, was largely filmed in New Jersey, using real shops, restaurants and even a strip club to double for locations in the series.
Movie: Kevin Smith’s View Askewniverse movies are all set in New Jersey. That includes films such as Clerks, Mallrats, Chasing Amy, Dogma, and Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back. That all makes sense, given Smith is New Jersey native, himself. Top actors like Ben Affleck and Matt Damon have appeared in multiple films, as a variety of characters, throughout the series.
Book/Author: George R.R. Martin, writer of the epic fantasy saga A Song of Fire and Ice (Game of Thrones when adapted for TV) was born in Bayonne. At 71 years old, many fans wonder if the series will ever be finished on page, but at least we got – for better or worse – some closure with the TV series. Either way, Martin has made his money.
Fictional Character: The general consensus is that animated adult comedy, Bob’s Burgers, is set in New Jersey. Therefore, I will put the Belcher Family here. The clan includes parents and restauranteurs Bob and Linda, along with mischief-making kids Tina, Gene and Louise. Their antics have led to the show winning two Outstanding Animated Program Emmys.
Fictional City: Gotham City is said to be located in New Jersey, meaning the Batman universe takes place there. While it’s certainly not a place many would want to live, given its extremely high crime rate, corruption at all levels and the threat of death at every turn, Gotham City has remained a popular locale for fans of the franchise.
Actor/Actress: One of the world’s most celebrated actresses, Meryl Streep, was born in Summit. Streep has won three Oscars, based on 21 nominations, with her career as a whole recognized with an American Film Institute Life Achievement Award, Presidential Medal of Freedom and Golden Globe Cecil B. DeMille Award. Other famous New Jerseyans, include Michael Douglas, Jack Nicholson, and Bruce Willis.
Song: New Jersey doesn’t have a State Song, but that was not because of a lack of effort from one musician. In fact, his campaigning may have worked against him. I’m From New Jersey by Red Mascara was almost made the State Song in 1972, passed by the Legislature, but vetoed by the Governor. Mascara continued the push for his song up until his death.
Band/Musician: New Jersey is the home of so many music legends. Bruce Springsteen, Jon Bon Jovi, Frankie Valli, Whitney Houston, Paul Simon, and Frank Sinatra all hail from the state. I saw something that said Springsteen had at least 25 songs with references about New Jersey, which sounds about right, given his extensive music catalogue.
People: Domestic goddess, Martha Stewart, was born in Jersey City. Her media empire has included TV shows, books, magazines, and other projects, making her a household name as a household saviour. Also, travel and food writer, Anthony Bourdain, was raised in Leonia. He came to prominence thanks to the shows No Reservations and Parts Unknown.
Animal: Kids and adults alike love dinosaurs. These beasts from long ago have fascinated many and the first nearly complete skeleton of a dinosaur was discovered in Haddonfield, in 1858. The Hadrosaurus (New Jersey’s State Fossil) find launched the field of paleontology and is memorialized with a eight-foot dinosaur statue in downtown Haddonfield.
Invention: Thomas Edison’s lab in Menlo Park is the site where he developed light bulbs, phonographs, motion pictures, and other items. Edison was called the ‘Wizard of Menlo Park’ and he held 1,093 patents in the US alone. Edison State Park now encompasses the site of his lab and a memorial tower and museum dedicated to the inventor.
Crime: There are some alarming crimes from New Jersey history, but when one is called the “Crime of the Century,” you have to profile it. In 1932, aviator Charles Lindbergh’s 20-month-old son was abducted, with a ransom note left behind. Despite an exchange of money, the baby’s remains were found two months after the kidnapping. Richard Hauptmann was convicted of the crime and executed by electric chair in 1936.
Law: I’m not sure how this one is going over nowadays, but in New Jersey, it is illegal to frown at a cop. That must make recent protests a little awkward. Even worse, in Bernards Township, it is completely illegal to frown. This will turn your frown upside down, though. It is illegal for birds to poop on statues… finally, people who hate birds as much as I do.
Sports Team: The New Jersey Devils (NHL) are the only professional team to carry the ‘New Jersey’ name, following the New Jersey Nets (NBA) leaving for Brooklyn in 2012, after 35 seasons. New York-named teams the Jets and Giants (NFL), as well as Red Bulls (MLS), play out of the state, commonly referred to as the New York Metropolitan Area.
Athlete: Basketball Hall of Famer Shaquille O’Neal had a career filled with championships, including four NBA titles and an Olympic gold medal. O’Neal transcended the sport, starring in movies and video games. Likewise, shortstop Derek Jeter was a five-time World Series champion and 14-time all-star. In 2020, Jeter was one vote shy of being unanimously elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Famous Home: The Grover Cleveland Birthplace, in Caldwell, is a museum and National Historic Place dedicated to the only person from New Jersey to become U.S. President. Cleveland was the 22nd and 24th Commander-in-Chief (the only politician to ever serve non-consecutive terms), although he won the popular vote for all three elections which he ran.
Urban Legend: The Jersey Devil is a legendary creature with a horse head, bat wings, horns, clawed hands, and cloven hooves, said to be found in the Pine Barrens area of the state. The being was the 13th child of a witch (with the father being the devil), who cursed it after learning she was pregnant. It is now the moniker of the current NHL franchise.
Museum: The United States Golf Association (USGA) Museum and Arnold Palmer Center for Golf History is located in Far Hills. The USGA began collecting items in the late 1930’s, finally opening a facility in New York, in 1951. The collection was moved to New Jersey in 1972 and now offers the Pynes Putting Course, a nine-hole course where visitors can use classic replica putters.
Firsts: New Jersey has hosted a number of firsts in the sporting world. This included the first officially recorded organized baseball game (June 19, 1846 in Hoboken), the first college football game (November 6, 1869 in New Brunswick) and the first professional basketball game (November 7, 1896 in Trenton). The first American brewery was also established in Hoboken, in 1642.
Company: The Campbell Soup Company is headquartered in Camden. Along with its soup, Campbell’s is also responsible for brands such as Pepperidge Farm, Prego and Swanson. Another well-known New Jersey-based company is retail chain Bed Bath & Beyond, which was founded in Springfield and is now based in Union.
Events: More battles during the American Revolutionary War took place in New Jersey than any other colony, earning the state the nickname the ‘Crossroads of the Revolution’. The Battle of Trenton and Battle of Princeton were major victories for General George Washington and his troops, turning the tide against British forces.
Miscellaneous: Two infamous incidents, the Burr-Hamilton Duel and Hindenburg Disaster, occurred in New Jersey. First, on July 11, 1804, Vice-President Aaron Burr wounded former Secretary of the Treasury, Alexander Hamilton, capping their long feud. This rivalry was turned into the hit musical Hamilton. Later, on May 6, 1937, the Hindenburg airship caught fire and crashed, while docking at the Naval Air Station Lakehurst.
Garden State Cocktail
- 1 oz Cucumber Vodka
- 0.25 oz Elderflower Liqueur
- Top with Bubbly
- Splash of Lemon Juice
- Dash of Simple Syrup
- Garnish with a Cucumber Slice
This cocktail honours New Jersey’s nickname of Garden State by using ingredients such as cucumber. The term Garden State is often attributed to Abraham Browning, who noted that New Jersey is a barrel with good things to eat and open at both ends, helping to feed Pennsylvania on one side and New York on the other.