December 5, 1933 marked the end of the misguided and disastrous “Noble Experiment” that was Prohibition. Fortunately, there was no shortage of creative experimentation in liquid form during this year’s party celebrating the 75th anniversary of Repeal Day at Washington, DC’s City Tavern Club. Revelers toasted with the classics as well as new inspirations to benefit the Club’s Preservation Fund and New Orleans’ Museum of the American Cocktail.
The event, organized by the DC Craft Bartenders’ Guild, spotlighted creations by the best bar talent in the city. Derek Brown of The Gibson poured his aptly named December 5th cocktail, made with Domaine de Canton and VSOP Brandy, while EatBar’s Gina Chersevani mixed up a citrusy, refreshing sip with Campari. Among the other drinks also served was the tart and heady Aviation made with Martin Miller gin, Luxardo Maraschino liqueur, Rothman and Winter Crème de Violette and lemon juice. This old cocktail recipe is hip again thanks to bloggers and mixologists who are returning to the classics.
Special guest Tony Abou-Ganim, host of Fine Living network’s “Raising the Bar” series, used a stand mixer to whip up the meringue batter for the 1820s era Tom and Jerry cocktail. He explained to guests how cream of tartar produces stiff peaks for the egg whites, and folding in beaten yolks adds body. To serve the rich drink, the batter is ladled into warm mugs, topped with hot water and rum or Cognac, and garnished with grated nutmeg.
Guests in period attire and a 1930s jazz band set the festive mood, and everyone was encouraged to propose toasts throughout the evening—customary on Repeal Day. And in the town where the Volstead Act was passed, which made alcohol illegal, there was a lot more to commemorate than being able to imbibe without consequence. “We are celebrating the reemergence of our profession as a craft,” says Brown. “We are celebrating the talented and excellent bartenders of the District and everywhere. We are celebrating our great country and all of the freedoms we have. We are celebrating the notion that freedom is irrepressible.”
Long live freedom, including the liberty to play behind the bar and pour freely. Grateful cocktail lovers everywhere can rejoice.
The December 5th Cocktail
Courtesy of Derek Brown, The Gibson, Washington, DC
2 oz. Domaine de Canton Ginger Liqueur
1 oz. VSOP Brandy
½ oz. Fresh Squeezed Lemon Juice
2 dashes The Bitter Truth Repeal Day Bitters (order from www.the-bitter-truth.com, or substitute Angostura bitters)
Lemon wedge or twist
Fill a cocktail shaker halfway with ice. Add all ingredients, and shake vigorously. Strain into a cocktail glass and serve. Garnish with a lemon wedge or twist.
Kelly Magyarics is a wine and spirits writer, and wine educator, in the DC area. She can be reached through her website, www.trywine.net.
Read more Repeal Day cocktail recipes.