Prohibition’s Hangover Still with Us

Interesting lectures are a great thing. Good cocktails are a very good thing. But when the two are combined into a single presentation, the effect is just plain fun, which is how I describe the event I attended last night.

Garrett Peck, author of The Prohibition Hangover: Alcohol in America from Demon Rum to Cult Cabernet, walked an audience through the history of Americans’ conflicted relationship with alcoholic beverages (at Jackie’s Restaurant in Silver Spring, Maryland). Moving along in time, the lecture was augmented with drinks that were popular at different times in the nation’s history — including the infamous “coffin varnish,” about which H.L. Mencken wrote.

The “hangover” of prohibition, noted Peck, is the broad — often byzantine — regulatory framework under which alcoholic beverages are now produced, marketed, and sold in the United States. I’ve begun reading the book, which I’m finding enjoyable. And it’s got the best jacket blurb I’ve ever seen (from my friend Edward Stringham): “[T]his book will be of interest to anyone interested in alcohol.”

Peck also lead a Temperance Tour, in which he takes visitors along the historical landmarks that mark the road to the insanity that was prohibition. Here’s a toast to drug prohibition passing into history some day, as well.