Raise A Glass, Idaho; It's Repeal Day

Dec 5, 2017

The Manhattan is something of a multilevel drink. While there's nothing wrong with the original formula of 2 parts whiskey to 1 part sweet vermouth (with a gentle sprinkling of bitters), you've got options. Add a bit of Averna to make it a black Manhattan, or cut the vermouth in half and put just a little maple syrup in to give it a seasonal twist.
Credit Matt Guilhem / Boise State Public Radio

Among the fray of named shopping days and the actual holidays that make this time of year the holiday season, there’s an oft overlooked day worth celebrating. On December 5, 1933 the 21st Amendment was ratified, ending Prohibition. Today, December 5 is celebrated as Repeal Day.

With the passage of the 18th Amendment in January of 1919, the United States embarked on a thirteen-year dry spell. Those in favor of teetotaling said Prohibition would bring down crime rates, protect families from the evils of drink, reduce poverty and curb mental illness.

Once it became enshrined in the Constitution, Prohibition waned in popularity. The promises of groups like the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union, that a dry nation would solve a range of social ills, proved more ideal than actual. Some things, like deaths linked to cirrhosis did see a decline, but crime flourished with bootleggers taking over the nation’s supply of hooch. In 1925, at the height of Prohibition, there were 30,000 to 100,000 speakeasies – in New York City alone.

While the joke abounds that Idaho is about five years behind the rest of the country, when it came to Prohibition the Gem State was early to the party. Gubernatorial candidates in 1909 – a full decade ahead of the 18th Amendment – both talked of the benefits of making Idaho a dry state. Reporting in the Statesman shows Idaho adopted a county-by-county prohibition model. Canyon County ran dry in 1910. Two years later, Ada County held a vote to go dry that failed. The writing was on the wall and the boozy good times would soon come to an end. The kibosh on cocktails in Idaho came in 1916.

While running for president in 1932, part of Democratic candidate Franklin D. Roosevelt’s platform included repealing Prohibition. Upon taking office, FDR worked to quickly end the dry spell. By the end of 1933, repeal was in sight. Surprisingly, it was Utah that pushed the repeal move over the threshold as the 36th and final state needed for the necessary three-quarter of states majority needed for a constitutional amendment. With the Beehive State getting on board, the 18th Amendment was repealed by the 21st Amendment on December 5, 1933 and America’s long unquenchable thirst was sated.

If you want to tipple in true Prohibition style, head out to your local watering hole today and consider one of these concoctions:

-Gin fan? Like the bright sweet of honey? A Bee’s Knees could be just the thing.

-A cocktail reportedly invented during Prohibition is the French 75. Champagne, a splash of gin, and a bit of lemon juice make this a crisp sipper.

-If you prefer brown liquors, the Ward Eight is a good option. Supposedly created in Boston in the 1920s, the drink features rye whiskey, orange juice, lemon juice and a dram of grenadine. With booze again legal, Esquire called the cocktail one of the best of 1934 – the year after Prohibition came to an end.

Check with your favorite bar to see if they’re offering anything special for this under-the-radar occasion. Much like the speakeasies of the 1920s, it pays to be in the know. Sometimes bars celebrate Repeal Day by offering 1933 prices, but you didn’t hear it from me.

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