Shake, Repeal and Roll
Festive spots to celebrate the anniversary of Prohibition's end plus two classic cocktail recipes.
Last December marked the seventy-fifth anniversary of Repeal Day, and the party's still going strong. Imbibers all over the country are polishing toasts and donning 1930s attire to commemorate the jubilant day when it was no longer illegal to sip an Aviation or toss back a cold beer. History has shown that "Noble Experiment" was anything but: civil delinquency, alcohol consumption and organized crime skyrocketed, and the country is still rebounding (albeit more assertively these days) from the lamentable loss of America's Golden Age of the Cocktail. Jeffrey Morgenthaler, bar manager at Portland, Oregon's Clyde Common and founder of RepealDay.org, notes that, "We celebrate Repeal Day because December fifth marks a return to the rich traditions of craft fermentation and distillation, the legitimacy of the American bartender as a contributor to the culinary arts, and the responsible enjoyment of alcohol as a sacred social custom." Attend one of these spirited gatherings around the country, all held on December 5—irrefutable proof that the good old days are indeed back again!
The Party: DC Craft Bartenders Guild's Second Annual Repeal Day Ball
Event Details: The "Spirit of 76" celebration (aptly named since it's now seventy-six years since Repeal) is shaping up to be even bigger and better than last year. Sip cocktail creations from renowned local mixologists like Derek Brown, Gina Chersevani and Todd Thrasher, along with special guests including bartending legend Dale DeGroff, nationally renowned bartender Tad Carducci, and toastmaster Jeffrey Morgenthaler, the founder of RepealDay.org. Nosh on food from PS7's Peter Smith and, and dance to the 1920s era songs of the Red Hot Rhythm Chiefs. VIP guests gain early entry, exclusive access to the bartenders, special demonstrations and after parties at the city's top cocktail bars.
Go Because: The ball is located across from historic Calvary Baptist Church, the first national convention site of the Anti-Saloon League, which launched the legislative agenda for Prohibition.
Info: PS7 Restaurant (777 Eye Street NW, Washington, DC, 202.742.8550). The black-tie soirée runs 9 PM to midnight, and 8 PM to midnight for VIPs. Tickets are $100 for general admission, $150 for VIP, and can be purchased online at http://www.dccraftbartendersguild.org/. A portion of the final proceeds will benefit the Museum of the American Cocktail in New Orleans.
The Party: Teardrop Lounge's Annual Repeal Day Bash
Event Details: The yearly fête will commence at 1:33 PM, with a special menu comprised only of cocktails that were created during the "Dark Era" from 1919-1933, like the Blood & Sand, Scoff Law and Saigon Special. Guests also sip rare, pre-Prohibition whiskey.
Go Because: "It's less about the special whiskey or the cocktails we've chosen to make for the night, and much more about the very warming sense of community," explains co-owner Daniel Shoemaker. "We fill up quickly with people who have a true and common respect for the craft of the drink."
Info: Teardrop Lounge (1015 NW Everitt Street, Portland, OR, 503.445.8100). Period dress is strongly encouraged (it entitles you to a $6 drink, too,) and come armed with the password to enter: "Volstead," a nod to the act in Congress that defined "intoxicating liquors" and reinforced Prohibition.
The Party: Brotherhood of Appreciating Repeal Day (B.O.A.R.D.) Repeal Day Celebration and Beer Taste Benefit
Event Details: A renovated Masonic Lodge circa 1910 with Victorian woodwork and other architecturally correct details is the perfect spot to slip on your best retro garb, sample a wide variety of craft beer favorites and enjoy a light dinner. Take part in a silent auction with beer paraphernalia while dancing to the sounds of Max Schang and Bathtub Gin Swing. Actors from local arts guild the Walnut Lodge will appear as Mae West, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, WC fields and other surprise guests.
Go Because: Several years back, a few friends found themselves in a Western Pennsylvania bar on Repeal Day. They pondered the significance of the day (ironically lost on their bartender,) and agreed it was worthy of a celebration; the following year, the event was born. "We packed the place on a Wednesday and raised three thousand dollars for the Shenango River Watchers," says B.O.A.R.D. member and officer Nick Baron. No one expected it to be the success that it was. This is our third year and the event is sold out with a waiting list for tickets!"
Info: The Corinthian (47 Vine Avenue, Sharon, PA, 724.983.9020). Event starts at 6:00 PM, and runs until whenever. Tickets are $30 but are already sold out—the last two will be auctioned off on Ebay, and proceeds from all tickets help fund the Shenango River Watchers, a local environmental group that cleans, preserves and protects the river. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to get on the waiting list for tickets.
September Morn (recipe circa 1926)
Courtesy of Daniel Shoemaker, Teardrop Lounge, Portland, Oregon
This deep and rich cocktail with toffee notes is representative of cocktails invented during the 1920s. Here, the era's preferred spirit gin is replaced by rum—showcasing, as Shoemaker points out, the "true American outlaw attitude of heading to Havana to circumvent the government."
1Â½ oz. Ron Matusalem Classico Rum
Â½ oz. Dolin Dry Vermouth
Â½ oz. limejuice
Â½ oz. egg white
Â½ oz. grenadine (Shoemaker uses homemade, or substitute a high-quality store bought brand)
All all ingredients to a shaker without ice, and shake for 30 seconds. Add ice, and shake vigorously. Strain into a coupe.
Blood and Sand (recipe circa 1922)
The name of this cocktail comes from the title of a Rudolph Valentino film. You may be somewhat incredulous that these four very different ingredients combine to form something quaffable, but one sip will wash away any doubts.
Â¾ oz. Scotch
Â¾ oz. Cherry Heering
Â¾ oz. Sweet Vermouth
Â¾ oz. orange juice
Flamed orange peel (for garnish)
Combine all ingredients except orange peel in a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake vigorously, and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with the flamed orange peel.
Kelly Magyarics is a wine and spirits writer, and wine educator, in the Washington, DC area. She can be reached through her website, www.kellymagyarics.com.