News / USA

Shaken, Stirred or Straight Up? US Toasts Repeal of Prohibition

New York City Deputy Police Commissioner John A. Leach (R) watches agents pour liquor into a sewer following a raid during the height of prohibition in an undated photo held by the Library of Congress.
New York City Deputy Police Commissioner John A. Leach (R) watches agents pour liquor into a sewer following a raid during the height of prohibition in an undated photo held by the Library of Congress.
Reuters
Many Americans this week will toast the 80th anniversary of the repeal of Prohibition, a 14-year ban on the sale and production of alcoholic beverages that turned booze-smuggling thugs into celebrities and otherwise law-abiding citizens into criminals.

They may also want to toast one unintended consequence of Prohibition: a renaissance of cocktail creation that began as a way to make moonshine whiskey and bathtub gin more palatable. Creative bartenders have kept the tradition alive, and it continues to this day.

While the cocktail has been around since early 19th century, the combinations of spirits, sugars, water and bitters really started pouring into shakers during Prohibition.

U.S. Prohibition agents destroy a bar in an undated photo held by the National Archives and Records Administration.
U.S. Prohibition agents destroy a bar in an undated photo held by the National Archives and Records Administration.
In the 1920s, there were 15,000 speakeasies in Detroit, "Great Gatsby'' author F. Scott Fitzgerald favored Gin Rickeys and politicians and the famous hid out at New York's "21 Club'' with its secret wine cellar and disappearing bar.

Unlike saloons that were male bastions before Prohibition, speakeasies were coed and women, who had just gotten the vote, enjoyed a liberated lifestyle.

"The whole Prohibition cocktail thing was to cover up the poor quality of the alcohol,'' said John McCarthy, a bartender at New York's Bathtub Gin lounge.

An estimated 10,000 people died of alcohol poisoning during Prohibition from bad bootleg whiskies, tainted gins and a federal government program that added poison to alcohol to frighten folks from imbibing, according to "The Poisoner's Handbook: Murder and the Birth of Forensic Medicine in Jazz Age New York.''

McCarthy credits the resurgence of cocktails to TV's Food Network with its celebrity chefs and cooking contests that popularize well-prepared foods.

"And it has brought that locavore, artisanal esthetic thats in the back of the house [the kitchen] to the front of the house (the bar),'' McCarthy said.

Dale DeGroff, author of "The Essential Cocktail: The Art of Mixing Perfect Drinks,'' agreed.

"If the culinary revolution hadn't happened, we wouldn't be where we are,'' said DeGroff. ``If we didn't have an audience that was willing to try new things and in love with these big flavors, we wouldn't be where we are.''

FILE - A bartender pours martinis on a yacht at the United States Sailboat Show in Annapolis, Maryland.
FILE - A bartender pours martinis on a yacht at the United States Sailboat Show in Annapolis, Maryland.
Flavored spirits starting with vodka have also fueled the cocktail craze. In addition to lemon and pepper, there is salted caramel and wedding cake flavored vodka and a host of other unusual pairings.

Other spirits have also gotten more flavorful, with maple syrup-laced Canadian whiskies and honey or cherry or apple-flavored bourbons and Scotches.

But McCarthy prefers to add his own flavors, mixing his own bitters, syrups and infusions.

"If I make a drink and you taste lemon, it's because I want you to taste lemon,'' he said.

McCarthy is working on perfecting a cocktail based on white rum, Szechuan pepper corns, pomegranates and lemon juice.

Ray Foley, editor and publisher of Bartender Magazine and author of "Bartending for Dummies,'' said cocktails are going  back to basics.

"The Manhattan, the Martini, the Side Car, they're all coming back,'' he said.

But there are still lingering reminders of Prohibition.  It was only last April that the governor of Kentucky signed a bill repealing a Prohibition-era ban on Election Day sales of alcohol. And in 2012, 33 of the 50 states still permitted  towns and counties to be ``dry,'' or prohibit sale of alcohol within their borders.

To mark the anniversary of the repeal of Prohibition the National Constitution Center, a nonprofit devoted to the U.S. Constitution, is sponsoring a traveling exhibit, "American Spirits: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition,'' that began its national tour last month in St. Paul, Minnesota where it runs through March 16.

You May Like

Turkey's Controversial Reform Bill Giving Investors Jitters

Homeland security reform bill will give police new powers in search, seizure, detention and arrests, while restricting the rights of suspects, their attorneys More

Audio Slideshow In Kenyan Prison, Good Grades Are Path to Freedom

Some inmates who get high marks could see their sentences commuted to non-custodial status More

'Rumble in the Jungle' Turns 40

'The Champ' knocked Foreman out to regain crown he had lost 7 years earlier when US government accused him of draft-dodging and boxing officials revoked his license More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Victorious Secularists Face Challenge to Form Government in Tunisiai
X
Henry Ridgwell
October 30, 2014 11:39 PM
Official results from Tunisia show the Islamist Ennahda party has failed to win the second free election since the so-called "Arab Spring" uprising in 2011. Ennahda, which handed power to a government of technocrats pending the elections, lost out to the secular party Nidaa Tounes. Henry Ridgwell reports from London that the relatively peaceful poll offers some hope in a volatile region.
Video

Video Victorious Secularists Face Challenge to Form Government in Tunisia

Official results from Tunisia show the Islamist Ennahda party has failed to win the second free election since the so-called "Arab Spring" uprising in 2011. Ennahda, which handed power to a government of technocrats pending the elections, lost out to the secular party Nidaa Tounes. Henry Ridgwell reports from London that the relatively peaceful poll offers some hope in a volatile region.
Video

Video Africa Tells its Story Through Fashion

In Africa, Fashion Week is a riot of colors, shapes, patterns and fabrics - against the backdrop of its ongoing struggle between nature and its fast-growing urban edge. How do these ideas translate into needle and thread? VOA’s Anita Powell visited this year’s Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Africa in Johannesburg to find out.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.

All About America

AppleAndroid