Rip Van Winkle character jug produced circa 1960. Rip Van Winkle is a short story by the American author Washington Irving, first published in 1819. It follows a Dutch-American villager in colonial America named Rip Van Winkle who meets mysterious Dutchmen, imbibes their liquor and falls asleep in the Catskill Mountains. He awakes twenty years later to a very changed world, having missed the American Revolution. Irving, inspired by a conversation on nostalgia with his American expatriate brother-in-law, wrote his story while temporarily living in Birmingham, England. While the story is set in New York's Catskill Mountains near where Irving later took up residence, he admitted, "When I wrote the story, I had never been on the Catskills."