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The Prohibition Era was a sober (pun intended) time in American history. Beginning January 1920, the production, sale, and distribution of alcohol was outlawed largely due to the Temperance Movement, which blamed alcohol for society’s problems including crime and murder. This movement eventually crystallized into the 18th amendment, clarified by the National Prohibition Act (or the Volstead Act).
Despite this law being added to our constitution, enforcing it wasn’t particularly successful. While the goal of prohibition was to make America dry, it arguably backfired and did the exact opposite. It was a time characterized by the rise of speakeasies, booming illegal economies, the emergence of gangsters, and a time in which the average American broke the law.
Even though “The Noble Experiment” ultimately failed nearly 14 years later and the 18th Amendment was repealed, it was still a defining moment in American history and proved just how important alcohol is to our society.
Sacramental wine was still allowed for religious purposes in churches and synagogues, which led to a sudden spike in newly ordained priests and rabbis, and orders for wine increased by millions of gallons a year. Additionally, in Jewish communities, each household was allowed a certain amount of wine per year, pending approval from their rabbi. Unsurprisingly, some congregations grew in size within the first year of Prohibition from 80 families to 900 families.
Drug stores were permitted to sell “medicinal whiskey” with a prescription, legally allowing patients to buy one pint every ten days. Suffice to say, there was a suspicious increase in prescriptions written for whiskey during this time. By the time Prohibition ended, doctors had written over 6 million prescriptions, each which cost $3 to the patient, along with another $3 to the pharmacist who filled it. Coincidentally the drug store Walgreens saw major growth during Prohibition. In 1919, there were around 20 Walgreens stores. A decade later, Walgreens had well over 500 locations, most likely due to fulfilling these prescriptions.
No legislation was going to magically turn all Americans into teetotalers – so alcohol consumption went underground instead. Secret saloons and illegal bars, also known as “speakeasies” were born seemingly overnight, and grew at a rapid rate. The speakeasy became a fixture in the social scene, drawing in men and women of all ages and backgrounds.
The origin of the term is unknown, but it is believed to be because patrons were required to approach these nondescript buildings and whisper–or “speak easy”– through a small opening to enter the bar, providing either a secret password or the name of the person who sent them. As popularity grew, so did law enforcement’s monitoring. In an effort to remain under the radar, speakeasies began distributing a membership card that allowed patrons to enter. Prohibition ended 86 years ago, but speakeasies made their mark on culture, and Americans still seek out the allure and and charm of the backroom bar.
Prohibition meant that alcohol makers and bartenders had to get a little creative. Bootleggers were smuggling in as much illegal liquor as they could from Canada, but that still wasn’t enough to meet demand. So, a thriving black market emerged, with bootleggers producing millions of gallons of “bathtub gin”, poorly distilled whiskey (with sometimes harsh chemicals and suspect ingredients), and moonshine rancid with an outright nasty taste. As a strategy to mask the taste of this unregulated alcohol and to stretch the liquor a little further, bartenders came up with interesting concoctions by mixing in juices and other ingredients, marking the popularity of the mixed drink in America.
Fun fact: In 1932, Franklin D. Roosevelt easily defeated incumbent President Hoover largely due to his platform calling for prohibition repeal. When the repeal was passed, some say he celebrated by enjoying a martini, his drink of choice.
Gin was one of the most popular liquors in this era because of how easy, cheap, and fast it was to produce. As a result, many prohibition-era cocktails used gin. This drink, called Bee’s Knees, was one recipe often found at speakeasies, and is said to have been created in 1922 at the Detroit Athletic Club.
Cheers is the leading alcohol-related health brand focused on developing products that support your liver and help you feel great the next day. As a student at Princeton, Cheers’ founder Brooks Powell discovered the potential advantage of incorporating the natural plant extract Dihydromyricetin (DHM) into an after-alcohol consumption regimen and began working with his professors to make products that addressed the unique challenges of alcohol-related health. . Since its official launch in 2017, Cheers has sold more than 13 million doses to over 300 thousand customers. The research-backed line of products includes three versions of supplemental pills and powders – Restore, Hydrate and Protect. Cheers is now releasing read-to-drink versions of their products—starting with Cheers Restore. Each product is equipped to meet different health needs such as rehydration, liver support, and acetaldehyde exposure. Cheers places an equal emphasis on the responsibility and health aspects of its mission and vision. The brand’s mission is bringing people together by promoting fun, responsible, and health-conscious alcohol consumption. The vision is a world where everyone can enjoy alcohol throughout a long, healthy, and happy lifetime. For more information, visit cheershealth.com or join the social conversation at @cheershealth.