Repeal Day links and videos

Today is Repeal Day, which as most of you know is the holiday celebrating the ratification of the 21st Amendment and the end of Prohibition. To mark the occasion, Reason has put together an interesting video on the “The Man in the Green Hat,” Congress’s very own bootlegger:

Also of interest: This trailer for Breaking the Taboo, a new documentary narrated by Morgan Freeman about the failure of the War on Drugs:

On a similar note, outgoing Mexican president Felipe Calderón spoke to The Economist about the Drug War and its devastating effects in his country:

“[E]ither the United States and its society, its government and its congress decide to drastically reduce their consumption of drugs, or if they are not going to reduce it they at least have the moral responsibility to reduce the flow of money towards Mexico, which goes into the hands of criminals. They have to explore even market mechanisms to see if that can allow the flow of money to reduce.

“If they want to take all the drugs they want, as far as I’m concerned let them take them. I don’t agree with it but it’s their decision, as consumers and as a society. What I do not accept is that they continue passing their money to the hands of killers.”

Finally, here’s an essay I wrote for The American Spectator on the 75th Anniversary of Repeal Day.


Happy Repeal Day, everyone!

This blog’s favorite holiday, the anniversary of the repeal of Prohibition, is here. I hope you’re all celebrating with the cocktails of your choice. Last year’s 75th anniversary celebration was epic, with a trip back to DC to serve drinks at the Cato Institute with Jeffrey Morgenthaler, attend the DC Bartenders Guild Repeal Day Ball, and visit Derek Brown’s fantastic new bar, Gibson. Work won’t let me head back East this time, but if anyone stops by Carlyle I’ll be happy to mix them some pre-Prohibition cocktails.

Last year I wrote this column for the American Spectator about the current incarnations of the Prohibitionist impulse. Since then we’ve seen only marginal improvement in respect for states’ medical marijuana laws, a complete ban on non-menthol flavored cigarettes, passage of the SCHIP taxes on tobacco, and the passage of smoking bans in North Carolina and Virginia. The fight against the nanny state never ends, but tonight’s a good time to take a break from it to enjoy the freedom restored by the 21st Amendment.


A Repeal Day for the ages

Free to Booze Bar

With the end of December almost here, it doesn’t look like I’m going to get to that big Repeal Day wrap-up I had planned. Luckily Tom Pearson’s all over it with Repeal Day and post-Repeal Day entries, so check over at his site for the links. See also Jeffrey Morgenthaler’s adventures in DC and “libertarian kind of guy” Lance Mayhew’s thoughtful reflections about Prohibition and the growth of government.

I was in DC too, kicking off the day at Cato’s Free to Booze event. I wasn’t able to watch the forum, being too busy setting up the bar in the lobby and teaching the interns some practical skills like how to juice citrus for 200 people. Thanks to their help, spirit donations from DISCUS, and a very last minute purchase of sweet vermouth, Jeff and I were able to mix up some tasty vintage cocktails for the thirsty mob. Here’s what we served:

Manhattan: Bulleit Bourbon, Sweet Vermouth, and Angostura Bitters
One of the first uses of vermouth in a cocktail and a true classic to this day

Martinez: Beefeater or Tanqueray Gin, Sweet Vermouth, Maraschino Liqueur, and Orange Bitters
Forgotten cousin of the Dry Martini, also born of America’s love affair with vermouth

Sidecar: Hennessy VS Cognac, Cointreau, and Lemon
An early mix of spirit, orange liqueur, and citrus, a versatile combination enjoyed today in the Margarita and Cosmopolitan

Aviation: Beefeater or Tanqueray Gin, Lemon, Maraschino, and Crème de Violette
A beautiful classic regaining popularity thanks to new imports of violet liqueur

Stone Fence: Maker’s Mark Bourbon, Cider, Angostura Bitters
Ethan Allen’s Green Mountain Boys drank a rustic version of this drink before storming Fort Ticonderoga. What are you gonna do?

Sazerac: Hennessy VS Cognac, Pernod aux extraits de plantes d’absinthe, Peychaud’s Bitters, Angostura Bitters, and Sugar
Vintage New Orleans cocktail; though originally made with cognac, rye whiskey became standard in the 1870s

Pegu Club: Beefeater or Tanqueray Gin, Cointreau, Lime, Orange Bitters, and Angostura Bitters
A refreshing gin drink published in Harry Craddock’s Savoy Cocktail Book (1930) and credited to the Pegu Club in Burma

Jeff and I had a great time making the drinks. I hadn’t worked a busy bar shift since leaving Open City in March, so getting back into the groove and working through a long line of orders felt great. One of my favorite moments of the night was informing a person who ordered a vodka tonic that we had neither vodka nor tonic. Working with a limited bar and a small menu let us put the focus on introducing people to new experiences and I think we opened a few eyes to well-crafted cocktails.

If you missed the Cato event, it’s too late to make you a drink but you can catch video of the policy forum online. Organizer Brandon Arnold also recorded a podcast for the occasion.

Following a nice dinner with friends, I went off to DC Craft Bartenders Guild’s fantastic Repeal Day celebration, featuring drinks from some of the DC’s best mixologists. Then we took the afterparty to Gibson, the new speakeasy off U St. As Jeff notes, some of these speakeasy themed bars stand on ceremony to the point of inconvenience. At one I watched the host make a woman search her Blackberry for her forgotten codeword before granting entrance, despite the fact that every table but my own was unoccupied. There’s none of that nonsense at Gibson. There the focus is entirely on serving wonderful drinks in a comfortable, relaxed environment. And the drinks really are excellent. If you’re in DC, it’s absolutely worth visiting. I just wish it had opened before I moved across the country.

This Repeal Day will be hard to top, but the 100th anniversary is just 25 years away. It’s hard to predict what will happen then. Perhaps there will be blowback against the nanny state’s current excesses. Maybe we’ll finally overturn some of our outdated alcohol distribution laws. Given all the momentum in the craft movement right now, I’m hopeful we’ll see even broader interest in mixology and be closer to overcoming Prohibition’s legacy of crap cocktails. Whatever happens, we’re going to have one hell of a party.


Happy Repeal Day!

Hey everybody, I hope you’ve got some fun things planned for tonight. A long flight, a time change, and Reason magazine’s 40th anniversary party kept me far too busy yesterday to catch up on internet at happenings. I’m at Murky now, checking in briefly before heading over to Cato for what looks to be one of the most popular events ever held there. Jeff and I are going to have our hands full getting drinks to the thirsty libertarian masses.

There’s a lot of Repeal Day writing coming out today, including one op/ed from me in the American Spectator discussing the spiritual heirs of the Temperance movement (which, as Radley learned, is still active!).

I plan to post a more complete roundup soon, but in the meantime here are two excellent pieces from historian Maureen Ogle (author of Ambitious Brew, a book on the history of American beer that I’m currently enjoying). In the first she examines Prohibition’s legacy of regulations that hamper today’s boutique producers of spirits, beer, and wine. In the second she hopes we toast not alcohol itself, but rather our right to enjoy it. Read them both, and be sure to check out her weblog too.

More to come… Cheers!


Free to Booze

Do you have plans for Repeal Day yet? This year’s the big one, the 75th Anniversary of the 21st Amendment. Cato’s marking the occasion with what looks to be a fun and informative policy forum:

Featuring Michael Lerner, author of Dry Manhattan: Prohibition in New York City; Glen Whitman, author of Strange Brew: Alcohol and Government Monopoly; Asheesh Agarwal, Former Assistant Director of the Federal Trade Commission’s Office of Policy Planning; and Radley Balko, Senior Editor, Reason. Moderated by Brandon Arnold, Cato Institute.

On December 5, 1933, the 21st Amendment to the Constitution was ratified, thus ending our nation’s failed experiment with Prohibition. Organized crime flourished during Prohibition, but what were the other effects of the national ban on alcohol? How and why was it repealed? Please join the Cato Institute for a celebration of the 75th anniversary of the repeal of Prohibition and a discussion of its legacy and continuing impact on America. Drinks will be served following the discussion.

Note the “drinks will be served” line. These won’t be just the usual Cato beer and wine. Though we’re still working out the details, the plan is for me to be there mixing up a menu of classic pre-Prohibition cocktails.

But that’s not the best part. A few weeks ago I was at a friend’s bar in Eugene when he mentioned that he’ll be visiting DC the very same weekend. I told him about the Cato event and asked if he’d be interested in tending bar with me there. And lucky for us, he said yes. So you won’t just be getting drinks from this lowly libertarian cocktail blogger, but also from the man himself, Mr. Repeal Day, Jeffrey Morgenthaler.

It’s going to be a fun afternoon and we’d love to see you there. If you’re going to be in DC on December 5, RSVP for the event here, and be sure to also check out Jeff’s site for more Repeal Day updates.


Congress celebrates Repeal Day

Radley notices that the House of Representatives is considering a resolution to recognize the upcoming 75th anniversary of the repeal of Prohibition. Read the whole thing here. Who else but Congress could make Repeal Day sound so boring? One excerpt:

Whereas passage of the 18th Amendment, which prohibited `the manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors’ in the United States, resulted in a dramatic increase in illegal activity, including unsafe black market alcohol production, organized crime, and noncompliance with alcohol laws;

In unrelated news, a record 873,000 Americans were arrested on marijuana charges last year.

Raise a glass on Repeal Day


Repeal Day bourbon

December 5 of this year will mark the 75th anniversary of the 21st Amendment’s ratification and the end of national Prohibition. To celebrate, Old Forester is crafting a limited edition Repeal Bourbon for release this winter:

“Repeal Bourbon is bottled from a special selection of Old Forester barrels that exhibited a more robust character that is similar to the Old Forester that was bottled during Prohibition,” added Chris Morris, Master Distiller for Old Forester. “The flavor, presented at Prohibition’s required 100 proof, is a full, deep, charred oak character that will appeal to bourbon-lovers everywhere.”

Bureaucrash celebrated last year with a party in Arlington, across the river from DC in protest of the city’s smoking ban. Inside the city things got a little rough…

[Via Jeff Morgenthaler.]