Going sober for October? Some pointers from the past

25 October 2019

Cultural Studies | History

To celebrate the release of Food and Drink in History: Module I, Prohibition Punches: A book of beverages, is available to view until 24 November 2019. Click on the images for access to this document for free.

This Monday, 28th October, marks the hundredth anniversary of the National Prohibition Act becoming law in the United States. Also known as the Volstead Act, the Act prohibited “intoxicating beverages”, regulated the manufacture, sale and transport of alcohol whilst ensuring a supply of alcohol for industry and science. It defined “intoxicating liquors” as “any such beverages which contain one-half of 1 per centum or more alcohol by volume”, a surprisingly low limit for many.


Image © Material sourced from the University of Michigan. Further reproduction prohibited without permission.

Despite well-documented breaches of the Act, with famous bootleggers and speakeasies, efforts were made to encourage citizens to remain on the right side of the law. Food and Drink in History: Module I, published earlier this month, contains a range of documents relating to the temperance movement and prohibition, but one in particular caught my eye. Prohibition Punches: A book of beverages was published in 1930 by Dorrance & Company and features non-alcoholic recipes for all occasions and times of day. In the preface, Dr. Harvey W. Wiley writes:

Too long we Americans have been sulking, like the small boy, because we couldn’t sup the nectar of a “forbidden fruit.” It is high time to do a little mental housecleaning and turn our minds to thoughts of fruits of which we can partake without incurring inevitable penalties of law and nature.

To this end, the recipes involve a considerable amount of fruit juice “dressed up in various fancy forms”, from “Frosted Orange Juice” – a breakfast-time mix of orange juice and ice cream – to “Meridian Mansions Punch” – to be served in the afternoon, containing the juice of no fewer than 24 lemons – and a “Vegetable Cocktail”, seemingly a Bloody Mary combination in which the vodka has been exchanged for “2 dozen stalks asparagus”.


Image © Material sourced from the University of Michigan. Further reproduction prohibited without permission.


Despite the assertion in the preface of the book that “[t]he Eighteenth Amendment is a permanent part of our constitution”, the process of repealing it began three years after the book’s publication in response to ever-increasing resistance. The attempts of Prohibition Punches, then, to “fill our national goblet legitimately” could not tempt the population away from stiffer drinks, but might provide inspiration, or at the very least entertainment, for any designated drivers among us as we head towards party season.

To find out more about Food and Drink in History: Module I (available now), including free trial access and price enquiries, please email us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

About the Author

Emma Woodcock

Emma Woodcock

Since I started at Adam Matthew in the summer of 2018, I've worked on a range of projects including Socialism on Film, Food and Drink in History and America in World War Two. My academic interests lie in Early Modern book history, literature and politics.