The holiday season is upon us, and while I’m sure that everyone is already being inundated with catalogs and circulars and wish lists and Muzak carols in every store, I wanted to remind you of a lesser-known but still very important holiday, at least to the cocktailians here at Sly’s: December 5th, the anniversary of the Repeal of Prohibition.
Being true patriots, we love our freedoms, and the restoration of the freedom to lift a glass with friends and loved ones without fear of jail time (at least, if one quaffs responsibly) bears celebration. To that end, we are pleased to announce that our seventh Repeal Day celebration will be taking place at Sly’s from opening at 11:30 a.m. to closing on Monday, December 5th. As is our tradition, we will be handing out our “speakeasy” menu, which every year features new cocktails conceived by our staff as well as forgotten but fabulous classics that Chris and bar staff created.
This year, the focus is on tired old favorites improved - in a very big way - and made even better. With a nod to Jeffery Morgenthaler, "The Best Amaretto Sour in the world". A frozen strawberry margarita - Papa Hemingway's style, with no less than Harry's Berries extraordinary strawberries. From up north, the Bracing ABV's Gin & Celery. And a Not-Too-Sweet Sex on the Beach. There's more, too. Chris says that these are "the cocktails you want to drink but have been afraid to order in public."
In years past, some cocktails that have been on the speakeasy menu have even made it into our general stable of excellent classics because you lovely people kept ordering them and made them exceptionally popular. Two that come to mind are the Whiskey Cocktail and the Corpse Reviver #2 - (Not to mention the Vesper).
A Little Background: Okay, friends, raise your hand if you’ve heard of the Volstead Act. For those of you who have, I expect to hear a round of booing & catcalls. The Volstead Act also known as the “National Prohibition Act”, became the 18th Amendment on October 28, 1919. It was a dark day in libational history, to be sure. So dark that we celebrate Repeal Day each and every December 5th here at Sly’s.
President Woodrow Wilson (bless his bespectacled head), vetoed the bill, to no avail. The temperance movement was too strong, the conservative voices in Congress overrode the veto, and for fourteen years, a citizen would be fined or jailed for the consumption of, manufacture of, or sale of alcohol. The amendment mentions “intoxicating liquors” specifically; it was created so that the populace could not drink.
For fourteen years following the passing of the Volstead Act, beverages containing more than .5% alcohol were forbidden - unless prescribed by a doctor. Bet that made doctors pretty popular! Not just frowned upon, not just strictly regulated...outlawed!
Prohibition brought us one more lovely little slice of American history: organized crime. That’s right, folks, Al Capone and the like were created by running booze illegally, making quite a bit of money. Money that meant that bootleggers had lawmen in their pockets. Speakeasys became glamorous. Rich folks began to host cocktail parties in their homes. Doctors were prescribing whiskey for everything from pain to nervousness. Well-respected, moneyed, otherwise law-abiding citizens were flagrantly breaking the law- lawlessness to a degree our country has not seen since.
Then in 1933 a ray of light. Change in the times. Hope for those who enjoy a good cocktail- or just a beer. The 21st Amendment was drafted, essentially just saying, “That thing we said about not drinking? Ignore it.” It was ratified state by state throughout the year of 1933.
On December 5, 1933, Utah ratified the 21st Amendment, and alcohol was once again legal in the United States.
Please drink responsibly so that you don’t find yourself in a personal Prohibition. For our friends in Santa Barbara and Ventura, we encourage you to take the Amtrak, as we are only two blocks from the station in Carpinteria and there are multiple arrivals and departures on December 5th. Carpooling is encouraged and designated drivers are widely considered to be the sexiest members of any group. So please consider this to be your formal invitation to come lift a glass with us here at Sly’s in celebration of your right to do so. We’ll see you on December 5th!