Today marks the 80th Anniversary of the implementation of the 21st Amendment, also known as Repeal Day (for repealing the disastrous 18th Amendment, which went into effect on January 17, 1920). Make sure you enjoy a tipple today to celebrate!
Prohibition was a dark period in America. It pitted recent immigrants against Americans who had been in the country for generations and rural areas against urban. Hypocritical politicians voted dry and drank very wet. I guess it’s like today where members of Congress get to engage in insider trading and no-one else does. No-one expected that Prohibition would last for over 13 years. But, last it did.
In those 13 years, entire industries were destroyed. The nascent American wine industry was destroyed and didn’t start it’s second rise until the 1960’s. It’s only today that America is finally returning to where it was pre-Prohibition. The impact on American Bourbon and Irish Whiskey distillers was devastating. It’s little known that Irish Whiskey was one of the most popular spirits in the United States prior to Prohibition (and Irish Whiskey was dealt a one-two-three blow with World War I, Prohibition in the United States and then the war for Irish independence). Prohibition pretty much put most distillers in the United States and a far number in Ireland out of business. And, the same fates befell most breweries as well.
Not only did Prohibition change how alcohol was produced, it changed how we drank. The speakeasies that sprang up during Prohibition were really the first places to integrate women into drinking establishments. While cocktails were popular prior to Prohibition, they became ever more popular and inventive in the speakeasies to mask the poor quality of the bootleg alcohol that most served. And, the popularity of cocktails spread around the globe with the diaspora of American mixologists, seeking work elsewhere. Among others, London, Paris and Cuba benefited greatly from this diaspora and the hordes of thirsty Americans that followed on their drinking holidays.
Today, we are happy to report that the industry has finally rebounded from Prohibition, although it has taken us almost 100 years. The variety and quality of spirits is unbelievable. The American wine industry is on fire, expanding across the country with a dizzying array of selection. Breweries have rebounded and the number of micro-breweries has risen steadily, making better and better beer. Even cider is having a renaissance. Mixology has made a comeback, both in the amazing cocktails being made and acceptance by society as a profession.
Still, there are still some counties & cities in America where Prohibition is still in effect. The whole State of Mississippi stayed dry until 1966.
Mix yourself a drink today and offer a toast to Repeal Day!
more Repeal Day reading and drinking