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 The eighteenth article of amendment to the Constitution of the United States is hereby repealed.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!

Bitters: Thinking Inside AND Outside the Glass

For those of you who follow the cocktail scene, this week (June 1-7) is “Negroni Week.” It’s a relatively new tradition from the people at Imbibe magazine that celebrates the cocktail and is a chance to give back to charity. Bars around the globe serve their own variations of the drink and donate to their favorite causes. It’s also my inspiration for this week’s blog post. (I promise there is a point to the introduction that follows, we’re just taking the winding road–Like any good cocktail, the road to a good blog post should be savored!)

The Negroni is a cocktail, like many, with a somewhat uncertain origin, though it most likely was invented in Italy in the 1910s or 1920s. While you can find all kinds of variants with different names that have developed since then (much like the Martini’s many, many variations), the classic Negroni is simple: 1/3 gin, 1/3 sweet vermouth, and 1/3 Campari. For the moment, we’re interested in Campari…sort of.  Campari is an herbal-and-fruit-based liqueur made in Italy. In other words, it’s a type of bitters. Bitters are basically botanicals pickled in water and alcohol used in small quantities to flavor cocktails. (The origin story and history of bitters are far more complex, but those are topics for another blog post.) As a cocktail ingredient, there used to be a few specific brands that were common, including the Angostura bitters you can still buy today. The rise of the craft cocktail in the last decade has led to flavors of bitters just about anyone can dream up (I can speak from personal experience, having made a few batches myself). However, it’s Angostura bitters we’re featuring this week.

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Our copy of For Home Use is from 1937, and the publication was already in its 8th edition at that point. Angostura Bitters, originally called “Aromatic Bitters” by their creator Dr. Johann Siegert, were first sold in 1824, though they wouldn’t exported beyond South America until 1830. From the book’s own pages, you’ll see that like others, Angostura bitters weren’t intended to be a cocktail ingredient (they predate the cocktail by a long shot–pun intended).

Toward the end of the publication, there are two pages of “Healthful Hints,” which take bitters into another part of the domestic sphere. The root of bitters (another pun intended) comes from more medicinal angle. One branch of the bitters evolution went in the direction of patent medicines, “cure-alls,” and the like, which were popularized in the 19th and early 20th century. But it didn’t stop there. From the cocktail glass to the dessert glass and from the soup bowl to punch bowl, Angostura bitters continue to be a versatile ingredient today.

Stay tuned for more about bitters, cocktails, and more in future posts. And, as always, if you’re in the neighborhood, pay us a visit. We love to share everything on our cocktail shelves, from Angostura bitters to recipes for Zombies.

 

Celebrate The End of Prohibition!

Happy Repeal Day!

“Happy what?” you may ask. Today is the anniversary of Repeal Day. And if you’ve done the math, you’ll notice it’s the 80th anniversary! Ratifying the 21st Amendment, which would repeal the 18th Amendment, required a three-quarters majority. On this day in 1933, Utah became the tipping (tippling?) point and Prohibition ended, at least at the national level. It would take until 1966 before all the state laws were overturned. And, of course, we have dry counties throughout the country today. 

So, naturally, this week seems like a good time to feature an item from the Cocktail History portion of the History of Food and Drink Collection. We have a number of items from 1933 and each has its merits, but Pick-me-up: Thirteen Drawings in Colour by Ian Fenwick ; with Thirteen Rhyming Recipes by A.N. Other presents a fun look at cocktails, through art and poetry. 

Other recipes/poems include the “Peri Ideal,” “The Tempter,” the “White Baby,” the “Quelle Vie,” the “Millionaire,” the “Royal Fizz” (which is actually missing a couple of ingredients in this version of the recipe), ” The Merry Widow,” the “Orange Blossom,” and the “Straight Law.”

Pick-me-up is not available online and you’ll only find about 4 copies in libraries in the US, including ours.  But we’ll be here, if you want a closer look…Or if you’re just looking for creative recipe to celebrate Repeal Day.

Cheers!