With the heightened interest in classic cocktails and cocktail history, restaurants and bars across the country are celebrating this Saturday’s Repeal Day with promotions and special menus.
On Dec. 5, 1933, Prohibition ended in the United States, and the day became part of the history of the nation’s drinking culture. Prohibition didn’t stop people from making and distributing bootleg alcohol or serving illegal alcohol in speakeasy clubs, and many venues participating in Repeal Day during current times draw on these historical details to create their own promotions. New tools, such as special passwords being sent via e-mail or coupons available on Facebook, have added a special twist to Repeal Day celebrations this year.
Proof on Main, in Louisville, Ky., plans to offer a Prohibition-inspired cocktail menu starting at 5:30 pm on the Saturday, featuring drinks like the Violet Gin Fizz, a twist on the gin fizz using violet liqueur. All the drinks on the special menu will be available at $9, compared to the usual $8-$11 price range for cocktails.
“We brought it back by popular demand,” said Sarah Robbins, vice president of operations for Proof on Main and 21C Museum Hotel. “Everybody reacted so well [last Repeal Day]. I think a lot of people had fun last year and were looking forward to coming back.”
With the addition of staff dressing in 1920s period costume and guests being encouraged to do the same, Robbins also hopes to attract foot traffic to the restaurant and cement the image of Proof as a destination and place to have fun.
“Beyond the cocktails and the special, part of the appeal to the Repeal really is the spirit that there is in the bar,” Robbins explained. “It’s really just fun, because we are in bourbon country. There’s just that feel there’s a personal connection, and frankly, a lot of guests are somehow tied into the liquor business.”
Other locations also want their customers to dress up for the occasion, providing incentives for guests to visit in period-appropriate outfits.
At Urbana Restaurant and Wine Bar in Washington, D.C., guests who arrive in Prohibition-era costume get to drink their first Urbana Gin Fizz for 25 cents, a price reminiscent of how much drinks would cost in the 1920s. All drinks after the first drink are priced down to $8 each. Guests who don’t dress up still get to take advantage of the $8 price point. Urbana also plans on serving the Urbana Gin Fizz from a bathtub in the bar area as a nod to the bathtub gin illegally made during Prohibition.
The Internet adds a modern twist to the speakeasy experience. Comme Ça Restaurants in West Hollywood, Calif., sent out e-mails letting guests know that this weekend only guests who give the password “Roosevelt” after their first cocktail get the second drink for 76 cents, to commemorate the 76th anniversary of Repeal Day.
The Teardrop Cocktail Lounge in Portland, Ore., also e-mailed people on their mailing list about plans for Teardrop’s 3rd annual Repeal Day celebration. Doors will open Saturday at 1:33 pm to correspond to the time of the original announcement of the signing of the 21st Amendment, which ended Prohibition. However, the party is by invitation only until 8 p.m., unless guests provide the password given in the e-mail.
Guests in costume can enjoy Teardrop’s Prohibition-era cocktails for just $6 each, but to partake of some pre-Prohibition whiskey, which is being specially poured until 3 p.m. for “a mere $20 an ounce,” guests will need to bring a liquor prescription sent with the e-mail announcement. During Prohibition, physicians were allowed to prescribe spirits for medicinal purposes.
Urbana is giving a password to guests who are fans of the restaurant on Facebook that they can mention to receive a free amuse-bouche from the chef.
While Repeal Day celebrates libations, food also gets in on the act. Urbana’s weekday pre-theater menu will be available to guests on Saturday for $33.
The three-course pre-fixe includes items like the curried kabocha squash soup with almond coconut foam and crushed almond biscotti with toasted pumpkin seeds and bacon-wrapped pork tenderloin served with Anson Mills polenta, “melted” Vidalia onions and baby carrots.
Custom House in Chicago also is celebrating Repeal Day by serving an abbreviated version of the tavern menu created by executive chef Aaron Deal.
Guests will be able to enjoy foods, from appetizers to community plates, at a reduced price range of between $3-$12.
Custom House also will introduce three new cocktails for $5 each. The three new cocktails include Bathtub Gin Rickey, made with a local distillery’s gin, and the Presbyterian, a cocktail used making white whiskey, or fresh unaged whiskey that calls back to moonshine made during Prohibition.
“The whole experience should be one,” said Sue Kim-Drohomyrecky, owner of Custom House, referring to both food and drink specials for Repeal Day. “It’s not just about knocking down drinks to get inebriated. It’s about conviviality.”