ActivismFoodGeneral Art

Amuse-Bouche: Prohibition and Repeal Day + Champagne Cocktail

Today is Repeal Day, an unofficial holiday that recognizes the repeal of Prohibition 78 years ago. Thinking about Prohibition raised a larger question for me that applies to all of us:

What would you do if your craft was outlawed?

The 18th Amendment and the Volstead Act prohibited the sale, manufacture, and distribution of alcohol in the United States from 1920 to 1933. Intended to curb the abuse of alcohol and the resulting domestic troubles, Prohibition caused more harm than good, contributing to a rise in organized crime and other criminal behaviors associated with the illicit production, distribution, and consumption of alcohol (not mention that bootleg liquor was often of extremely poor quality, sometimes to the point of being hazardous to one’s health). Prohibition is a perfect example of an experiment whose consequences were not sufficiently considered prior to enactment.

One of the consequences of Prohibition was that it became illegal for bartenders to practice their trade. The great bartenders, artists of their craft, could no longer create their art. Many of them expatriated to Europe or to Cuba where they could continue to make drinks and do what they did best. The art of drink languished terribly in the US (where it was born, I might add), and it didn’t really start to thrive again until the relatively recent resurgence of interest in classic and craft cocktails.

No whiskey for you

If your chosen medium was suddenly, misguidedly outlawed, what would you do? Would you move to another country where you could practice your art freely? Would you change to a different medium to skirt the law? Would you create your art in secret? Would you fight to change the system?

Today, December 5th, is the 78th anniversary of the ratification of the 21st Amendment and the repeal of Prohibition. If you’re of legal age, I encourage you to celebrate Repeal Day by exercising your right to have a drink. Not sure what to have? Try this simple, elegant pre-Prohibition beauty:

Champagne Cocktail

  1. Place a sugar cube in a champagne flute.
  2. Soak the cube with a couple dashes of Angostura bitters.
  3. Fill the flute with champagne or other sparkling wine.



An “amuse-bouche” (which literally translates to “mouth-amuser”) is a complimentary morsel to start the meal, a tasty little gift from the chef. We hope you enjoy these edible–and drinkable!–tidbits.

Anne S

Anne Sauer is an atheist with an appetite for science, good food, and making connections between the two. She is currently pursuing her MBA in Sustainable Management at Presidio Graduate School in San Francisco. Her favorite foods are salted caramel ice cream and chicken tikka masala. You can find her on twitter @aynsavoy.

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  1. Yum! This is officially my new favorite feature.

    If my craft was outlawed I’d probably keep doing it in secret somehow. The internet is great for that kind of stuff.

  2. Actually, sometimes I *am* an outlaw. I mean, I work with Hrab and Sigler for crying out loud. That wouldn’t play in Peoria.

    And, Anne- you do realize that you are in danger of being voted our bartendress if MAL ever has some little meet-up. We love your work!

  3. Donna, you say that as if I’d flinch at the request. Also hooray for art outlaws!

    Maki, the internet definitely makes things different. I wonder what role the internet would have played during prohibition… I imagine the virtues of the act could be debated openly, and at least there would be more records of the crafts of producing spirits and making drinks (I guess we can look at what’s on the internet regard marijuana usage as an example).

  4. “Would you change to a different medium to skirt the law? Would you create your art in secret? Would you fight to change the system?”

    No, yes and yes.

    I’d form some kind of underground resistance art collective. Unfortunately, it would probably take the form of terrible performance art, and thus, be worthy of being banned.

    But seriously, people have done really clever things to get around the prohibition of certain creative avenues. One of the coolest things I’ve read is the story of art under the Taliban in Afghanistan. From the article:

    “Dr. Asefi is an artist who, at great personal risk, had disguised the figures of human beings in 80 oil paintings at the gallery by applying a veneer of watercolor paint over them. He had thus saved the pictures from destruction at the hands of the Taliban, who had forbidden representations of the human form as sacrilege.”

    I was awestruck when I first read this story. It is an example of taking great risk in order to preserve what he loves. And I admire the optimism of Dr. Asefi, in that he used watercolor so the art could be easily restored at some later date. He could envision that future.

  5. Thanks for sharing, Brian–that’s a great story. I noticed in the piece that they do address emigration; some artists were unable to leave for different reasons and others left but then came back, because their sense of place and connection to their homeland was so central to their art.

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