From post-work pints to pre-dinner martinis, it’s second nature to reach for a cocktail menu when you’re out on the town. Especially in a city like Charleston, where libations are limitless and reasons for imbibing know no bounds — Tuesday? Sure, let’s grab a pitcher and celebrate enduring two-fifths of the week. This is nothing new, mind you. Robert F. Moss writes in Southern Spirits: Four Hundred Years of Drinking in the American South, “Early Southerners drank pretty much all day and at any occasion.”
But between colonial revelry and late-night bottle service there was a sad, contentious time, a time when the grand Noble Experiment turned good intentions of temperance into back door alcoholism and inter-state bootlegging. Starting in 1920, for 13 ill-fated years, ladies and gents had to smuggle their booze and wear the shame of discovery like a bad hangover (or a few months in the slammer). That is, until Dec. 5, 1933, 85 years ago, when the 21st Amendment was ratified, repealing the buzzkill 18th Amendment and returning distilled goods into the hands of hardworking Americans.
To celebrate Repeal Day, we asked some area cocktail aficionados around town what they would drink in the days of yore, and what they’re shaking up for 2018. Here’s what they had to say:
Edmund’s Oast beer buyer, educator, Advanced Cicerone, Pocket Liquor podcast host
[image-4] In 1933: “Hopefully some Scottish whiskey or Barbados rum that had been smuggled into the country. Prohibition helped kill off the well-made cocktail for what seems like a generation of drinkers sued to overly sweetened bathtub gin. Breweries would have just been getting back into the swing of things on Repeal Day and there probably wasn’t anything too exciting hanging about at that time. Perhaps a pre-Prohibition bottle of Bourbon or Rye whiskey produced by numerous small producers left out of business and into the hills to moonshine.”
Today: “Hopefully some Barbados or Jamaican Rum. Bourbon, that which I will always love, has seen its demand sky rocket. It seems to be harder to nail some of the old favorite bottles. Even if they are legal. Rum seems to be a multiplicity of styles and terroirs and ages, all at a price point that I can swallow. That is until the nerds ruin it, of course. Beer-wise, 2018 is in much better shape. I would probably grab a Coast HopArt. It was the first S.C. beer that I fell in love with from a brewery that continued to fight silly alcohol legislation that made it.”
Gin Joint owner
1933: “I’d be sipping on some whiskey just because America went without it for so many years” (Bolt says he remembers seeing photos of people taking axes to barrels of whiskey during Prohibition).
Today: “As a fun nod today I would drink a Sazerac or Manhattan.” Bolt says classic cocktails are a huge part of what they do at Gin Joint, and he finds it only appropriate to drink a cocktail today that remains an icon in drinking culture.
Gin Joint general manager
1933 and Today: “As for me, I’d be partial to a daiquiri to celebrate! Whether in Charleston or traveling, a classic daiquiri has always stuck out to me as a staple in drinking culture since even before Prohibition. I mean come on, even Ernest Hemingway drank them. I can’t imagine they ever went out of style.”
…and especially on today: “Funny enough, we’re launching a new menu on Repeal Day. It will feature favorites from our fall menu, a selection of holiday classics like the beloved Gin Joint egg nog, and a peppering of new creations, like a $5 house pour in our bone marrow for a shot luge.”
Spectator Hotel food and beverage director
[image-5] Drink of choice in 2018: “I’d celebrate with our 21st Amendment Cocktail, created by in-house mixologist Allen Lancaster, which is a take on the Prohibition-era 12 Mile Limit cocktail. The name is meant to jab on the fact that during Prohibition, you could not ingest alcohol within 12 miles of the shoreline. The drink is made with Templeton Rye, Toppers Silver Rum, Applejack, Creme de Mure, pomegranate, and lemon.”
[content-1] If you truly want to live like the sobriety irons have been removed, check out the city’s inaugural self-guided Prohibition Trail tour. Starting at The Spectator at 5 p.m. crawl to Cane Rhum Bar, Blind Tiger, and brand new Meeting Street bar, Doar Bros.