Celebrate Repeal Day in 2015 with a 1933 Cocktail Guide

Repeal Day is on almost here! 82 years ago on Saturday (December 5th), the 21st amendment was ratified, giving America back the legal right to transport and import (and consume!) alcohol.

THE 21ST AMENDMENT
RATIFIED DECEMBER 5, 1933
SECTION 1. The eighteenth article of amendment to the Constitution of the United States is hereby repealed.

SECTION 2. The transportation or importation into any State, Territory, or possession of the United States for delivery or use there in of intoxicating liquors, in violation of the laws thereof, is hereby prohibited.

SECTION 3. This article shall be inoperative unless it shall have been ratified as an amendment to the Constitution by conventions in the several States, as provided in the Constitution, within seven years from the date of the submission hereof to the States by the Congress.

It also means this is a time of year when I always put up a feature about something relating to cocktail history, something I started back in 2012 (search “repeal day” on the blog and you’ll find the three previous posts, as well as some others discussing the history of Prohibition).

For many Americans, December 5, 1933, was an exciting day. For others, it was a defeat. But, of course, the division of opinions was the cause of prohibition laws in individual states before 1919, as well as the era we call Prohibition with a capital “P.” During a 1932 campaign speech, FDR said

However we may differ as to method, we all agree that temperance is one of the cardinal virtues. In dealing with the great social problems in my own State, such as the care of the wards of the States, and in combating crime, I have had to consider most earnestly this question of temperance…But the methods adopted since the World War with the purpose of achieving a greater temperance by the forcing of Prohibition have been accompanied in most parts of the country by complete and tragic failure. I need not point out to you that general encouragement of lawlessness has resulted; that corruption, hypocrisy, crime and disorder have emerged, and that instead of restricting, we have extended the spread of intemperance.

One of the major lessons of Prohibition was that attempts to completely remove a vice from society can actually have the opposite effect, as FDR noted. It was equally important to him, though, that after the repeal of the 18th amendment, we not go back to the old ways. The late edition of the New York Times on Wednesday, December 6, 1933, had a front page article, “Prohibition Repeal Is Ratified at 5:32 P.M.; Roosevelt Asks Nation to Bar the Saloon; New York Celebrates With Quiet Restraint.” While refusing to pass federal legislation on the matter, FDR’s concern was that the repeal not result in an excessive return to the old ways. More specifically, he “asked personally for what he and his party had declined to make the subject of Federal mandate — that saloons be barred from the country…’I ask especially,’ he said, ‘that no State shall, by law or otherwise, authorize the return of the saloon, either in its old form or in some modern guise.'”

While his request wouldn’t be honored very long and bars were quick to return, after December 5th, the question of temperance and intemperance was back in the hands of the individual. And, to be quite honest, without Prohibition, the cocktail wouldn’t have evolved the way it did. After 1933, cocktails continued to develop, moving from something one had while out to something one could make at home, as ingredients were suddenly available and Prohibition-influences had expanded the idea of a cocktail and created the idea of a “mixed drink.”

There’s plenty more to say on this and more history to share, but I have promised you a feature item. We’ll save further history for another day. In the meantime, here’s some advice for The Home Bartender (1933),  whether you were mixing before December 5 that year, or not. 🙂

Driscoll has an introductory note to his little volume, which states,

The Author of this book, J. F. Driscoll, an old timer, is well experienced and versed in his profession. He has spent over twenty years in the U. S. A. and Old Mexico, as bartender, Buffet Bar, Oyster Bar, Sandwich Bar Man, and also as Waiter…He therefore knows and understands the wishes and complete desires of the American Public, those who frequent Alcoholic and Non-alcoholic drinking and dining emporiums, places that cater to the better class….I therefore hope this book agrees with your heartiest and most considerate approval…

Driscoll, like many other bartenders, appears to have spent at least part of Prohibition abroad–in this case, working in, as he puts it, “Tia Juana.” His diversity of employment is reflected by a diverse knowledge of cocktails, punches, wines, syrups, and non-alcoholic drinks. At the same time, The Home Bartender was likely published before December 5, 1933, and as a result, it’s a nod to the one place a person could legally consume alcohol…providing they hadn’t transported or imported it. (I’ll leave that puzzle to be solved another day.) So, get creative with something unfamiliar (a brandy float!) or mix up your favorite classic cocktail (toddy season is nearly upon us!) this Saturday. Cheers!

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