Repeal Day is quickly becoming a nation-wide excuse, I mean, reason to raise a quality cocktail with friends from coast to coast, and celebrate our freedom to do so!
December 5, 2008 marks the 75th anniversary of the 21stAmendment… the one which ended Prohibition. That pesky period outlawing liquor began in January 16, of 1919. Although Prohibition wasn’t actually enforced until 1920, the no-drinking law had been in effect for at least 13 long, dry years.
Obviously, people still drank liquor during the roaring ‘20’s and, in fact, cool underground bars and nightclubs sprung up in cities from San Francisco to Chicago to New York. The ‘speakeasy’ got its name because of the secretive nature people used when communicating about them, and used secret passwords to get in.
It was a feisty period of history, as we’ve seen in movies set in that time. Gangsters ruled, women drank alongside men (until Prohibition a “lady” wouldn’t step into a bar) and people set up stills in their own homes. That “bathtub gin” was lethal stuff, though, and many people died of alcohol poisoning, despite using the bathtub to mix the straight stuff with water.
Cocktail culture had been thriving, in the U.S., prior to Prohibition, and many of what we refer to today as “classic cocktails” came from the early 20th Century before the “thirsty years.” Today, our cocktail renaissance includes throwbacks to speakeasy style bars – some of my favorites are Milk & Honey and PDT (Please Don’t Tell) in New York; Bourbon & Branch in San Francisco; PX in the Washington DC area, the Violet Hour in Chicago; the Doheny and the brand new Varnish in Los Angeles. Boston, Seattle, New Orleans and other cities in the U.S. have clusters of bartenders who employ the recipes, techniques skill and passion of the pre- Prohibition cocktailians, and thanks to all of our efforts to promote “cocktail awareness,” there are growing pockets of drinkers who seek them out.
I’m on the road this week - ironically doing nonalcoholic cocktail demos and promoting my new book "Preggatinis." I will likely be in Austin on Repeal Day so if you have anywhere to suggest I go for a Repeal Day blowout, I’m all ears! In the meantime, I thought you’d like to know about some of the sipping celebrations around the country. You can learn more about Repeal Day at repealday.org and prohibitionrepeal.com
I am also offering a GRAND PRIZE for whomever sends in the best photo from their Repeal Day celebration. I will post the top 5 photos on The Liquid Muse Blog, and readers can vote on the one they think best captures the spirit of Repeal Day. The person who sent in that photo wins a bag of goodies, courtesy of Dewar's Scotch Whiskey. Photos must be received by Wednesday, December 10. Winner will be announced on Monday, December 15.
Happy Tippling, everyone!
Washington DC: One of the biggest Repeal Day celebrations, this year, is in our Nation’s Capital. I have a special place in my heart for DC because it is where I was inspired to start The Liquid Muse, nearly 3 years ago. There are some amazing bartenders and mixologists in that area, so if you can get down to City Tavern Club at 8pm, you will not regret it. There will also be visiting mixologists from around the country taking part in the festivities. Tickets are $75 and benefit the Museum of the American Cocktail, the City Tavern Club's Preservation Fund and the D.C. Craft Bartender's Guild. For more information visit dccraftbartendersguild.org
Chicago: A two-fold on Repeal Day sponsored by the Chicago chapter of LUPEC (Ladies United in the Preservation of Endangered Cocktails) and a portion of the proceeds from all purchases of food & drink at these events will be donated to the Greenhouse Shelter in Chicago. From their blog:
Act 1: Clark Street Ale House, Informal Happy Hour, 6.00-9.00 pm
Join us for a cocktail or three and toast the occasion. Just buy your own drinks and you won’t get into trouble.
Act II: The Drawing Room, Come Party Like it’s 1933, 10:00 pm
A 1933-style bash! Try the $33 Prefix Dinner & Drink Pairing Menu, or sip on a Prohibition-era cocktail from our special menu, all while listening to 1930’s tunes by the Ron Mills Orchestra.
Boston: The “Roaring 20’s Party” at Eastern Standard. Mixologist Jackson Cannon has created a year-long specialty cocktail menu in honor of the 75th anniversary of Repeal Day. Repeal Day kicks it off:
Juice Joint 6:30 – 7:30 pm cocktail hour
Puttin on the Ritz 7:30 pm, formal dinner
Tin Can Alley band and dancing starts at 10 pm.
Hittin on all Sixes features a 1:00 am breakfast
New Orleans: Dewer’s Scotch Whiskey is partnering with a whole slew of bars around the country for Repeal Day, including these ones in the Big Easy where you can try The Dewar’s Old Fashioned; Dewar’s Highball; Ward Eight; and the Rob Roy:
- Pat O Brian’s
- Napoleon House
- Hotel Monteleone Carousel Bar
- Court of Two Sisters
- Commander's Palace
- Lafitte's Black Smith Shop
The brand new Cole’s kicks off its premier party on Repeal Day “Eve” (Dec. 4) with a fundraiser for LAConservancy.org. The home of the French Dip sandwich, revelers will get to sample that classic fare, sip cocktails and view the City Ballet of Los Angeles celebrate Cole’s history through the art of music and dance. 1920’s ere attire encouraged! (Keep an eye out for the Varnish, tucked in the back of Cole’s…)
Members of The Doheny drinking club can sip Dewar's cocktails at a complimentary post-prohibition era party featuring music and sip Sazeracs, Old Fashions, and Blood and Sands from 8pm - 2am. Guests can even get a ‘50 Cent Haircut’ from 10pm-1am.
The Edison is having a VIP reception (which I’m so bummed to miss!!) featuring food and classic punch bowl cocktails, and cracking open a special barrell of Woodford Bourbon which was batched by the Edison’s own Aidan Demarest. The doors open to the public-at-large at 8:30 pm featuring Miles Moseley playing music, 20's flappers dancing, and a tongue-in-cheek midnight toast to the Women’s Temperance League, who bespoke the evil of alcohol and got the whole Prohibition thing going in the first place!
San Franicsco: Jane Tunks from the San Francisco Chronicle did a great round up of SF’s Repeal Day parties, so I am including info from her article here:
- Bourbon & Branch is showing off classics such as the Martinez.
- Cantina is throwing a party from 7 – 10 pm with John Walker & Co. also celebrating its 75th anniversary this year. The JW & Co. store's spirits director Dominic Venegas is putting together a pre-Prohibition cocktail menu that will be sold '20s prices.
- Elixir is the latest incarnation at the corner of 16th and Guerrero Streets, where that has continually been a saloon for the last 150 years. Proprietor H. Joseph Ehrmann is throwing a Prohibition-themed serving a 1933 cocktail menu. $10 donation to the Boys and Girls club is requested, Period Dress is encouraged!
- Forbidden Island pays tribute to Cuba, the drinking destination of choice during Prohibition, with cocktails like the El Presidente, Mary Pickford and daiquiris.
- Swig: DJs spin '30s-era swing and jazz. The Prohibition menu will include highballs, sidecars and Manhattans made with bourbons and ryes that survived Prohibition.
- Alembic’s bar manager Daniel Hyatt will pair classic cocktails with selected menu items at the Haight Street hideaway.
- Neyah White, at Nopa, shines the mixological spotlight on genever, with drinks like a Cranberry Quince Collins and Dutch Courage. The bar will uncork its house single-barrel Redhead Rye.