Going sober for October? Some pointers from the past
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 â€śintoxicating beveragesâ€ť, regulated the manufacture, sale and transport of alcohol whilst ensuring a supply of alcohol for industry and science. It defined â€śintoxicating liquorsâ€ť as â€śany such beverages which contain one-half of 1 per centum or more alcohol by volumeâ€ť, a surprisingly low limit for many.
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 couldnâ€™t sup the nectar of a â€śforbidden fruit.â€ť 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 â€śdressed up in various fancy formsâ€ť, from â€śFrosted Orange Juiceâ€ť â€“ a breakfast-time mix of orange juice and ice cream â€“ to â€śMeridian Mansions Punchâ€ť â€“ to be served in the afternoon, containing the juice of no fewer than 24 lemons â€“ and a â€śVegetable Cocktailâ€ť, seemingly a Bloody Mary combination in which the vodka has been exchanged for â€ś2 dozen stalks asparagusâ€ť.
Despite the assertion in the preface of the book that â€ś[t]he Eighteenth Amendment is a permanent part of our constitutionâ€ť, the process of repealing it began three years after the bookâ€™s publication in response to ever-increasing resistance. The attempts of Prohibition Punches, then, to â€śfill our national goblet legitimatelyâ€ť 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.