Tag Archives: Prohibition

A Still for Every Person in Boston

As we covered recently, it was never illegal to DRINK alcohol during Prohibition: only to make, sell, or transport it. Obviously, this means that at some point people were going to run out of their stockpiles, and need more booze.

Naturally, there were people happy to illegally oblige the thirsty masses, and make more booze. Also naturally, federal agents were out to get them and uphold the law.

During the first 5 years of Prohibition the feds destroyed 696,933 stills. That is more than 1 still for every person in Boston, today.

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What Did Prohibition Require?

Prohibition in the United States lasted from 1920 – 1933. Its mention conjures up illicit drinking in speakeasies and bloody gangster activities, but do you know what were the official parameters?

The effort that culminated in banning booze in our nation began well before the Civil War (1861-1865). Its proponents were looking to achieve a more moral and productive society, and they thought that keeping people from drinking would solve significant societal ills.

The legislation that resulted in Prohibition was actually quite unsatisfactory to teetotalers (people who do not drink). They saw it as not stringent enough.

At no point during Prohibition was illegal to DRINK alcohol. It was only illegal to make, sell, or transport it. While having a stockpile of alcohol was perfectly legal, however you could not do so at more than 2 residences—and at that one home had to be in the city and one in the country.

There were also medical and religious exemptions. Doctors could actually write prescriptions for booze, and religious leaders could dole it out for official ceremonies.

Plenty of people broke the law to drink during Prohibition, but there were many who imbibed while following the law.

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Surviving Prohibition: The Anheuser-Busch Edition

For 13 years between 1920 – 1933 it was illegal to make alcohol in America. While over 1,000 breweries went out of business, several found ways to retool their facilities and keep making money.

Not content with slipping into bankruptcy, Anheuser-Busch switched from making beer to amphibious cars. While I have never seen them in any of John Wayne’s WWII movies, apparently they saw action with the army & navy in the second world war.

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Prohibition’s Prison Population Surge

While I shudder to imaging living through Prohibition, this bartender can admit that ‘The Noble Experiment’ stemmed from a concept that was not all that crazy. Essentially, a portion of the American population that allowed alcohol to dominate their lives grew to such an unruly level that something ought to be done.

However, the way in which a solution was implemented ended up causing far more problems than drinking ever originally caused. For the 5 years before Prohibition the total number of U.S. federal prison inmates grew slowly from 4,000 to 4,800. A mere 10 years later that figure had nearly trippled, and eclipsed 12,000.

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Churchill Brought a Prescription for Booze to America

Prohibition lasted from 1920 – 1933, and while it made alcohol annoying to come by, it definitely did not make it impossible to imbibe. In addition to illicit means there were legal loopholes built into the law itself.

Medical doctors were allowed to prescribe alcohol to patients for a variety of conditions. One such doctor prescribed 1,880 gallons of booze in a single month.

Before he would visit America the Prime Minister of England—Winston Churchill—secured one such prescription from his doctor, so that his stay need not be a dry one.

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Washington Grows Nearly All of America’s Hops

As we touched on recently Hops growers thrived through Prohibition, because WWI had decimated the the hops-growing infrastructure throughout Europe. During this time farmland dedicated to Hops began to spread.

As it turns out Hops are particularly fond of the climate and soil conditions of the Pacific Northwest. Yakima Valley, WA contains 75% of total Hop-acreage in America.

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28-Year Ban on ‘Maraschino Cherries’

To my guests across the bar top who are unfamiliar with them, I describe Luxardo Cherries as top-shelf Maraschino Cherries! In truth they are rich, sweet, & booze-soaked cherries packed with a waterfall of flavors, compared to the bright but chemically-taste of what we today call Maraschino Cherries.

The Luxardo cherries originated in Croatia in 1821 where first cherries are distilled into a cherry liquor. Next fresh cherries are soaked in their own liquor.

In 1912 a precursor to the FDA decided that only cherries that had been soaked in Maraschino liquor should be called Maraschino cherries. After two decades of isolationist rhetoric the legal definition of a Maraschino Cherry was relaxed in 1940.

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