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

Russian Help on Iran Less Promising on Syria, Ukraine

US-Russian collaboration to secure a deal on Iran's nuclear program has raised hopes of closer cooperation on other world issues More

Video US: Millions Exploited by Vast Fortunes of Human Trafficking

State Department's annual report calls exploitation 'modern slavery,' brutalizing girls, women into prostitution and forcing men, women and children into low-wage jobs across the globe More

US-Ethiopia Relationship Strong, But Complicated

While Ethiopia serves as a valuable security ally and a bulwark against terrorism - the U.S., is a major aid donor and economic stimulator 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.
Iran Nuclear Pact Wins Few New US Congressional Backersi
X
Michael Bowman
July 26, 2015 8:44 PM
Later this week, President Barack Obama returns from a trip to Africa to confront a U.S. Congress roiled by the nuclear accord with Iran, an agreement that has received the blessing of the U.N. Security Council. Days of intensive lobbying and testimony by top administration officials have won few new congressional supporters of the pact. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports.
Video

Video Iran Nuclear Pact Wins Few New US Congressional Backers

Later this week, President Barack Obama returns from a trip to Africa to confront a U.S. Congress roiled by the nuclear accord with Iran, an agreement that has received the blessing of the U.N. Security Council. Days of intensive lobbying and testimony by top administration officials have won few new congressional supporters of the pact. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports.
Video

Video Underground Streetcar Station In Washington, DC, to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Obama Encourages Kenya to Fix Cultures of Corruption, Discrimination

President Barack Obama bid farewell to Kenya Sunday with a major speech at as stadium outside the capital Nairobi where he called on Kenyans to change the cultures of corruption and discrimination that can hold society back. VOA East Africa Correspondent Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.
Video

Video Racially Diverse Spider-Man Takes Center Stage

Whether it’s in a comic book or on the big screen, fans have always known the man behind the Spider-Man mask as Peter Parker. But that is changing, at least in the comic book world. Marvel Comics announced that a character called Miles Morales will replace Peter Parker as Spider-Man in a new comic book series. He is half Latino, half African American, and he is quite popular among comic book fans. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports from Los Angeles.
Video

Video California Towns Welcome Special Olympics Athletes

Cities and towns in Southern California are greeting thousands of athletes who are arriving for Special Olympics, a competition for people with intellectual disabilities. The games will run from July 25th through August 2nd. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, where athletes from Namibia, Singapore and Tanzania got a rousing welcome from local residents.
Video

Video Critics of Japan Defense Policy Focus on Okinawa

In Okinawa, many locals have long complained that Tokyo places an unfair burden on the tiny island by locating most of Japan's U.S. military bases there. As Japan's government moves toward strengthening and expanding the country's defense policies, opponents of those plans are joining local protesters in Okinawa, voicing concern about where the country is headed. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Okinawa.
Video

Video IS Uses Chemical Weapons in Syrian Attack

Islamic State militants have added a new weapon in their arsenal of fear: chemical weapons. VOA Kurdish service reporter Zana Omer was on the scene within hours of a recent attack in Hasakah, Syria, and has details of the subsequent investigation, in this report narrated by Miguel Amaya.
Video

Video Historic Symbol Is Theme of Vibrant New Show

A new exhibit in Washington is paying tribute to the American flag with a wide and eclectic selection of artwork that uses the historic symbol as its central theme. VOA’s Julie Taboh was at the DC Chamber of Commerce for the show’s opening.
Video

Video Hoverbike Flying Toward Reality

Another long-standing dream of many technological inventors is quickly approaching reality: U.S.- and British-based firms are cooperating in the development of an individual flying platform they call a hoverbike. They say it may revolutionize the concept of flying, including in the U.S. military. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video As Japan Expands Defense Role, Protests Follow

The Japanese government is moving forward with a controversial security bill that would authorize the military to fight abroad for the first time since World War II. Leaders say it is critical to defend against rising threats from China and North Korea. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Japan on the big changes ahead, and the opposition they are drawing.
Video

Video Rise in HIV Infections Worries Ugandan Officials

Uganda had the third-highest number of new HIV infections in sub-Saharan Africa last year, reversing its reputation for successfully tackling the epidemic in the 1990s. Although the percentage of people living with HIV/AIDS is still half of what it was in the 1980s, the increase in new infections is worrying to health workers. VOA's Serginho Roosblad reports.
Video

Video Replacing Poppies with Coffee in Myanmar

The remote mountains of Myanmar’s Shan state are home to the second-largest opium-producing region in the world. After a drop during the 2000s, production surged in the past eight years to feed an increasing demand for heroin in China. But farmers are now making less on the crop, and the U.N. is hoping many will make the switch to growing coffee. Daniel de Carteret reports for VOA from Taunggyi.

VOA Blogs