On this day 1933…Prohibition ends

Eighty years ago today the Volstead Act was finally repealed in the US bringing an end nearly 13 years of Prohibition.

prohibition_ends_repeal_day_cocktailsThe 18th amendment was repealed by the introduction of the 21st to the US constitution, which once again allowed the production and legal distribution of alcohol.

The sale of alcohol did not return to all of the US, townships of counties could choose to remain “dry” and many did, particularly in a belt from Texas and across Oklahoma, Arkansas, Ohio and Indiana.

Mississippi had made alcohol illegal in 1907 and didn’t repeal Prohibition until 1966, while Kansas still did not allow on-trade sales until 1987.

Introduced on a wave of pietistic Protestantism, Prohibition badly damaged the nascent American wine industry and drove brewers and distillers underground, with “moonshiners” and unscrupulous bootleggers producing what was often poison.

Some 10,000 people may have died from drinking denatured alcohol during prohibition


Gang wars during Prohibition led to events such as the St Valentine’s Day Massacre in 1929.

It made ordinary, law-abiding citizens into criminals by the simple virtue of enjoying a drink and spurred a wave of violent criminality that allowed serious organized crime syndicates to take root and grow powerful in American cities.

The American financier and teetotaller John D Rockefeller Jr admitted in a letter in 1932: “When Prohibition was introduced, I hoped that it would be widely supported by public opinion and the day would soon come when the evil effects of alcohol would be recognized. I have slowly and reluctantly come to believe that this has not been the result.

“Instead, drinking has generally increased; the speakeasy has replaced the saloon; a vast army of lawbreakers has appeared; many of our best citizens have openly ignored Prohibition; respect for the law has been greatly lessened; and crime has increased to a level never seen before.”

On the plus side, Prohibition has given the drinks industry “speakeasies”, classic cocktails (often to hide the taste of the inferior liquor) such as the Sidecar, Whiskey Old Fashioned, French 75, Bee’s Knees, Southside and Highball, the list goes on – a round-up of some of the best can be found here.

Prohibition is seen as the golden age of the cocktail and coupled with the Great Depression, it is no surprise that cocktails and jazz-filled speakeasies are undergoing something of a renaissance from London to San Francisco at the moment.

Bars across the US were toasting the 80th anniversary of Prohibition’s demise last night, don’t forget to send us your pictures.

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