For adults who love a good libation, December 5 is a red letter day.
It was then, in 1933, that the 21st Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified, repealing the 18th Amendment and ending the prohibition of alcohol in the United States.
“What America needs now is a drink,” said President Franklin D. Roosevelt. The nation had been denied that – except through elicit alcohol sales from clip joints and speakeasies – since 1920.
But Virginia had been waiting a while longer.
In November 1916, the Old Dominion went dry, giving in to the demands of such groups as the Women’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) and Anti-Saloon League (ASL). It had been a long battle: the Virginia WCTU held it’s first convention in Richmond in 1883; the Virginia ASL formed at Richmond’s Second Baptist Church in 1901.
A showy support for Prohibition came on Jan. 16 1920 in Norfolk when 10,000 folks attended a mock funeral for “John Barleycorn,” a colloquialism of the time for alcoholic drink.
Presided over by National League Baseball player-turned-evangelist William “Billy” Sunday, a procession from the train station through the streets to The Tabernacle meeting hall featured 20 pallbearers marching a 20-foot-long coffin.
Sunday delivered an eulogy where he declared, “Goodbye, John. You were God’s worst enemy; you were Hell’s best friend. I hate you with a perfect hatred; I love to hate you.”
Looking for a way to celebrate the End of Prohibition? Here are eight awesome imbibes from restaurants with some pretty crafty cocktail programs:
— 5th & MAIN —
Commonwealth Skybar | Charlottesville
First there was Farm to Fork, now there is Garden to Glass. All of it is part of the locavore movement, and that’s a real trend, too, in the cocktail world. The 5th & Main achieves those goals, while being a delicious take on the classic gin and tonic.
From Matt Pawlina’s bar, this is a crisp, refreshing blend of Commonwealth gin (from Richmond), housemade (doesn’t get any more local than that) craft tonic and fresh basil.
— THE AVA GARDNER —
Circa 1918 | Newport News
In homage to the legendary star of the Silver Screen (whose parents ran a Newport News boardinghouse in the mid-1930s) this ruby red cocktail mixes Stoli vodka, a very fruit-forward berry compote, St. Germain elderflower liqueur and lime juice.
It’s rich and full-bodied, much like the actress.
— THE CUBE —
Lucky Restaurant | Roanoke
How many cocktails can say they are 16 hours in the making? Hunter Johnson, the Sultan of Shakers here, can. It starts with an ethereal mix of ingredients: ginger root, gala apples, cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, juniper berries, hibiscus flowers, allspice, sea salt, vanilla extract and Demerara sugar, to be precise.
It’s all frozen into a giant ice cube then plopped in a glass smoked with applewood and topped with Evan Williams single barrel whiskey. The result: as the cube melts, the drink goes from boozy to beautiful with each little bit that melts.
— DEALER’S CHOICE —
The Rogue Gentlemen | Richmond
Rounding out an impressive list of creative cocktails on John Maher’s drink menu is an opportunity to truly get personal with the bartender: Dealer’s Choice. Tell them your spirit of choice and two words from the two dozen suggested, from citrus to fruity to spicy, refreshing, smoky and weird, and they will craft a cocktail just for you.
The restaurant employs a number of contemporary methods to make their imbibes special from the use of unusual bitters, specialty spirits, barrel aging and more.
— FRANCE MEETS VIRGINIA —
Bar PX At Eamonn’s A Dublin Chipper | Alexandria
It’s the best of two places: France and Virginia. In this full-on apple imbibe, Calvados apple brandy from Normandy is added with a syrup mixologist-extraordinaire Todd Thrasher makes with honey crisp apples, apple bitters and then shaken with Serious Cider from Virginia’s Foggy Ridge Cider.
Crisp and refreshing, it’s a little sweet but is tempered from the dryness from the cider. One of these a day may help keep the doctor away.
— QUOIT CLUB PUNCH —
The Roosevelt | Richmond
Punches, once relegated to the 18th and 19th centuries are on the comeback, and this trend does indeed pack a punch. Thomas “T” Leggett at this quaint eatery serves up a heady, boozy mix, named after a popular Richmond Victorian-era social club
Quoit Club Punch is a marvelous mix of Jamaican rum, brandy, Rainwater madeira, lemon and sugar. It’s a 130 year-old tradition that is timeless.
— SIX WEEK AGED BOULEVARDIER —
Terrapin Restaurant | Virginia Beach
One of the hottest – and tastiest – cocktail trends is barrel aging. Drink doyenne Erika Caylor crafts a gorgeous Manhattan-esque mix in her Six Week Aged Boulevardier.
A concoction of rich Jim Beam bourbon, slightly sweet Dolin Rouge vermouth, and pleasantly bitter Campari, is then aged. The result: a golden amber elixir with mellowed with age and layers of complexity added.
— UPTOWN GIRL —
Vermilion | Alexandria
Another hot-and-tasty cocktail trend is the infusing of spirit, and bar and spirits director Jeff Faile does just that, capturing the essence of earthy sage in sweet Dolin Blanc vermouth.
This sophisticated drink then takes smooth, Tito’s Handmade Vodka and adds a punch with grapefruit juice. The result is very cosmopolitan.
Patrick Evans-Hylton, a Johnson & Wales University trained chef, is a Norfolk, Va.-based food journalist, historian and educator. His work has appeared in print, television, radio and social media since 1995. Evans-Hylton calls his cookbook, Dishing Up Virginia, his love letter to the state’s foods and foodways. He blogs at PatrickEvansHylton.com.