Rack Up Sales with Prohibition-era Cocktails this Repeal Day

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This week, #ThirstyThursday has a whole new meaning. December 5 is Repeal Day!

With the ratification of 21st Amendment on December 5, 1933, the federal laws that enforced prohibition were repealed.

Interestingly, while some refer to prohibition as the “failed noble experiment,” not everyone holds that view. Several states gave residents the option to vote on local prohibition, and many voted in favor.

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For three decades, more than 30 percent of Americans still lived in areas with prohibition laws. It wasn’t until 1966 that statewide prohibitions were repealed.

However, dry counties still exist to this day. It may surprise some to learn by default, every county in Tennessee—home of Jack Daniel’s—is dry unless they pass a referendum to become “wet.” One of the best-known whiskeys in the world is produced in a county that prohibits the sale of alcohol by restaurants and stores.

Celebrating Repeal Day can be as involved or as simple as an operator prefers. Most bars likely have several prohibition-era cocktails on their menus, so a promotion to drive traffic and boost sales can be as easy as showcasing those drinks.

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Nightclub & Bar Award winner Nectaly Mendoza operates two iconic cocktail havens in Las Vegas. Herbs & Rye is regularly listed among the best bars in the world, a cocktail aficionado bucket list item and industry hotspot. Cleaver, Herbs’ larger but younger sibling, has been garnering similar praise since doors first opened.

Anyone who has been to Herbs & Rye knows that the cocktail menu is organized by era. One section, therefore, is named Prohibition. Cleaver is similarly organized, although the Prohibition section is smaller and features different drinks.

Operators can take a page from Mendoza’s book, creating and highlighting prohibition-era drinks on their menus or printing separate specialty menus for Repeal Day. The 13 prohibition cocktails featured by Herbs & Rye and Cleaver are the Hemingway Daiquiri, Remember the Maine, Bijou, Mary Pickford, Leap Year, Scofflaw, Bee’s Knees, Blood & Sand, Corpse Reviver No. 2, Hotel Nacional, Atholl Brose, and Hanky Panky.

In honor of the 21st Amendment, here are eight more prohibition classics, creating a list of 21 Repeal Day cocktails: Old Fashioned, Highball, French 75, Gin Rickey, Sidecar, Last Word, Ward Eight, and Sazerac.

Of course, not everybody wants to celebrate the repeal of prohibition with hard-hitting, spirit-forward cocktails. The rise of low-ABV drinks is undeniable. Using the Whiskey Highball as an example, a lower-proof whiskey can be combined with six or more ounces of soda to create a “sessionable” drink.

There’s also the split technique—halving the base spirit and adding a lower-proof ingredient. If a recipe calls for an ounce of base spirit, the proof can be lowered by using just a half-ounce of the spirit and a half-ounce of sherry, amaro, juice or cider. The option for lower-proof versions can be called out on menus.

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Operators can’t afford to forget about their sober guests. Just because someone isn’t consuming alcohol—be it a temporary, intermittent or permanent choice—doesn’t mean they aren’t interested in spending time at bars and restaurants, celebrating holidays among friends.

Brands like Seedlip allow operators and bar teams to craft zero-proof cocktails with as much creativity, quality and wow factor as their low- and full-proof counterparts. Seedlip’s Bee’s Peas is obviously a riff on the prohibition-era classic Bee’s Knees.

This Repeal Day, raise a glass—full-proof, low-proof and no-proof alike—with every guest in celebration of the 21st Amendment.

Our Favorite Recipes

Gin

Last Word

Equal parts (0.75 oz. traditionally) Gin, Green Chartreuse (or Yellow Chartreuse for slightly lower proof), maraschino liqueur, and fresh lime juice. Shake all ingredients with ice, strain into chilled coupe, and garnish with brandied cherry.

Bee’s Knees

2 oz. Gin, 0.75 oz. fresh lemon juice, 0.5 oz. honey syrup. Shake all ingredients with ice, strain into a chilled cocktail glass, and garnish with a lemon twist.

Hanky Panky

1.5 oz. Gin, 1.5 oz. sweet vermouth, 2 dashes Fernet-Branca. Stir in a mixing glass with ice, strain into chilled coupe, and garnish with orange twist.

Bijou

1 oz. Gin, 1 oz. sweet vermouth. 0.75 oz. Green Chartreuse, 0.25 oz. Campari. Stir all ingredients with ice in a mixing glass. Strain into a rocks glass over ice and garnish with orange twist.

Rum

Hemingway Daiquiri

2 oz. White rum, 0.75 oz. fresh lime juice, 0.5 oz. fresh grapefruit juice, 0.5 oz. maraschino liqueur. Shake all ingredients with ice, strain into a chilled coupe, and garnish with a lime wheel.

Hotel Nacional

1.5 oz. White or gold (aged) rum, 1 oz. pineapple juice, 0.5 oz. fresh lime juice, 0.5 oz. simple syrup, 0.25 oz. apricot liqueur (such as Giffard, Luxardo or housemade. Shake all ingredients with ice, strain into a chilled coupe, and garnish with a lime wheel.

Whiskey

Remember the Maine

2 oz. Rye whiskey, 0.75 oz. sweet vermouth, 2 tsp. Cherry Heering liqueur, 0.5 tsp. absinthe. Coat chilled coupe with absinthe and discard excess. Add remaining three ingredients to a mixing glass and stir with ice. Strain into absinthe-rinsed coupe and garnish with a brandied cherry.

Ward Eight

2 oz. Rye whiskey, 0.5 oz. fresh lemon juice, 0.5 oz. orange juice, 2 tsp. grenadine. Shake all ingredients with ice, strain into a chilled cocktail glass, and garnish with speared cherries.

Atholl Brose

2 oz. Scotch, 1.5 oz. oatmeal water, 0.5 oz. half-and-half, 0.25 oz. Drambuie, 0.25 oz. Disaronno, 2 barspoons raw honey. To make oatmeal water, add tablespoons of oatmeal to a mug half-filled with hot water and strain to obtain liquid. In a shaker, combine Scotch with honey and stir until honey is dissolved. Add all other ingredient including oatmeal water to shaker, shake with ice, and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

Zero-proof

Bee’s Peas

1.5 oz. Seedlip Garden 108, 0.5 oz. verjus (pressed juice made from unripe grapes), 0.5 oz. cloudy apple juice, 0.5 oz. beeswax cordial. To make beeswax cordial, heat 500 grams of honey on the comb in a pan with 16 oz. of hot water until honey is dissolved. Allow to cool and strain into container. To make Bee’s Peas, combine all ingredients in a mixing glass and stir with ice. Strain into wine glass and garnish with honey comb.

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