Historic photo of men dumping bourbon into a sewer during Prohibition

Given Kentucky is as famous for its bourbon as it is its fried chicken, it’s difficult to think that the Bluegrass state ever turned down sipping a lowball glass of spirits. But it did. In November 1919, Kentucky narrowly voted to ban sale and distribution – but not use – of alcohol, two months before Prohibition started nationwide. 

What followed afterwards put the roar into the 20’s. Whiskey businesses were shut down overnight. Bootlegging and bandits cropped up out the woodwork as illegal activities spiked. Large caches of whiskey were confiscated by thieves, underground tunnels were used to shift merchandise, and speakeasies cropped up all over. While consumption of spirits did drop dramatically, organized crime became a much more fruitful enterprise.

 

Hopeful intentions

Why, oh why? You may ask. Remember, this was a country returning from World War I, a conflict that saw over 100,000 American soldiers not return from battle. Alcohol consumption had risen sharply. It was also a time when women had taken positions as railway guards, police, firefighters and bank tellers while the men were overseas. It was a time of social turmoil, but also a time where the concepts of societal rights and wrongs were rapidly shifting. 

The temperance movement had grown significantly for over a decade, and marches and rallies targeting alcohol were common. The concept of banning the drink was seen as progressive and an attempt to cure social ills – drastic measures for a drastic situation.

One of the more well-known and radical members of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union was a native Kentuckian named Carry A. Nation. Her husband was an alcoholic, and she took it upon herself to bring her famous hatchet to saloons and tear them apart with what must have felt to her like acts of righteous vengeance. Her rampage lasted from 1900 to 1911 when she passed away.

 

Downfall

The ban decimated Louisville’s thriving Whiskey Row. It is gauged that about 6,000 to 8,000 distilling jobs disappeared overnight. While the city has done a fabulous job at reconstructing its bourbon industry, many distilling families blinked out of existence. Those that remained could only target the medical community to stay afloat. Prohibition also had a huge effect on ancillary businesses, such as cooperages, bottle manufacturers, taverns and even farmers. A lot of people were put out.

Prohibition was harder on the Bluegrass state than most. Kentucky’s terrain and rurality made it an ideal spot to mix up some moonshine and earn a great deal of untaxed income. Given that corruption was high and public figures were being paid to look the other way, Prohibition underlined just how broken the system was. Instead of upping morality, it unwound it. The ban on booze also meant that people weren’t having a slow sip at dinner, but downing buckets at illegal speakeasies. Additionally, the government was no longer collecting taxes on alcohol, instead it was funding organized crime.

 

Local activity

A large centre of Louisville’s backdoor trade was the luxurious Seelbach Hotel. Built in 1905 by Bavarian brothers Otto and Louis Seelbach, the lodging was constructed with many modern amenities not yet seen in the state. Even though Louisville had its own city water, the brothers dug wells and had sewer tunnels built. Additional tunnels were built when the hotel became a large provider of steam for neighboring businesses. These unused basements and tunnels were an easy railroad to freedom should authorities come knocking. 

In fact, legend has it that F. Scott Fitzgerald based his titular character of The Great Gatsby on the infamous George Remus, who he met at the hotel’s illegal drinking business. Seelbach became a magnet to some of the more colourful mobsters of the 20s. Besides George Remus, coined King of the Bootleggers, the hotel also saw the likes of Lucky Luciano and Dutch Shultz pass through its doors. Today you can sit where Al Capone himself would play blackjack and poker and smoke cigars. According to local lore, the front desk had a button to press should law enforcement show up so that Capone could quickly tunnel for cover.

 

End of an era

By the 1930s, the damage Prohibition had caused the country was evident. Both parties running for the 1932 election agreed that the 18th amendment to stop the sale of booze should be struck. The noble experiment was not seen as a success in Kentucky; over 80% of voters called for repeal. Under President Franklin Roosevelt, the Prohibition era officially ended on December 5th, 1933. Distilleries were reopened and Louisville began construction of its – now legal – bourbon empire. Let’s raise a glass to that.

woman holding a pink cocktail and wearing a fur coat

It’s party time. You’ve folded the vintage napkins, pressed your lime sofa covers and delicately wrapped your hipster warehouse poles that make your kitchen in silly LEDs you bought at that ultra-trendy knick-knack store on the fanciest corner of you-know-where. Guests in strange hats pool in as you prepare your house blend of the world’s finest cocktail. You’ve mildly sugared the rim with lavender, you’ve shaken the icy broth like a practiced Tom Cruise (from Cocktail – before all that… well, you know) and the room is now filled with strange aromas like tamarind, manuka honey and utazi leaves. You pour it, lovingly, into … your faded alma mater coffee mug.

Let’s be honest, you’ve failed. No matter how much your arrangement of porcelain tiki masks may have impressed Nick from accounting, he will not be coming back. Jenny from the copy desk just passed out on your collection of punk rock vinyl and may never recover. James from HR actually just fired you.

You need help.

Luckily, it’s not string theory. There is a pretty set list of rules you can follow that are easier than folding a lazy Oriental knot on your lightly stitched necktie. Some follow science, others follow fashion and all of them are terribly important. Let’s begin.

 

Champagne flute

Well la-dee-da, look who came over for high tea on the rocks. Tall, straight and slender – just your mother’s type. The vessel for France’s most infamous swill was traditionally a coupe glass. It wasn’t until some cheese-loving admirers decided the narrow glass better preserved the bubbles. And let’s be honest, it’s definitely easier to hold onto as you drunkenly sway around trays held by sour-looking help at your odd aunt’s annual fundraising gala in remembrance of her dead puppy Whiskers.

Suitable drinks: mimosa, bellini, Kir Royal, champagne, pretension

 

Highball glass

The highball glass is mainly reserved for lowball people who want more mixer than poison. Karen, I know you just want a coke, but we’re at a party. Like its brotha from anotha motha, the champagne flute, the highball glass’ tall stature keeps those bubbles in where they’re supposed to be. Its robust bottom (I’m talking about the glass, Karen) is great for muddling ingredients. Interestingly, the cup was born in the late 19th century to a group of drunk railroad workers and refers to the colored ball near stations that signaled for train operators to make like Keanu Reeves in Speed or Keith Richards at all times.

Suitable drinks: mojito, Bloody Mary, Cuba Libra, gin and tonic, a Friends marathon

 

Old Fashioned glass

This hot piece of glass is reserved for those who want to fast track to the old codger stage of life where you sit at the bar and tell youngsters things like, ‘I walked uphill to school, both ways!’ and ‘In my day, we thought porn was blocking real information on the internet, not actually being the only real information on the internet!’ Also called a lowball glass, it dates back to the 1800s and was mostly used for mixing spirits, sugar syrup, waters and bitters. Given its small build, it’s best for liquors that backhand you across the face like its namesake the Old Fashioned or a 17-year-old, 90-proof Eagle Rare.

Suitable drinks: whiskey, Negroni, old fashioned, Sazerac, functioning alcoholism

 

Cognac glass

No, sit back down, that person is not holding an actual monkey skull, but a cup so large their ego can fit in it. Want to have everyone stare at you? Of course you do! This 20-ounce see-through balloon should only be filled to about a quarter to preserve the bouquet and show everyone how much you care about it. The elixir should be slightly warmed, albeit the smoldering looks you’ll receive while circling the giant glass orb in your palm might well do the trick. The ancient Egyptians used similar-like goblets for drinking brandy and ritual practices. So, when someone comes up to you and remarks on how embarrassingly large your glass is, feel free to Pharaoh them into the next life.

Suitable drinks: brandy, cognac, the end of all things

 

Wine glasses

You’ve been using the same glass for red and white wines? No wonder you still live in New Jersey with your parents. (What, it’s not the economy?!) Etiquette dictates that reds take a larger glass with a rounder bowl to up the rate of oxidization, while whites remain shorter and thinner and can’t play basketball. Let every bartender that has ever served you ever know. It’s for their own good.

Suitable drinks: red wine, white wine, rose wine, existential dread

 

The bottle

In an age when ending pollution and conserving time are of utmost importance, the real philanthropist swigs from the source. Or at least that’s what you tell people as they throw change in your frayed chapeau on 4th Street. After all, drinking from the wrong glass at your apartment fiesta is what led you here in the first place. It’s not that they’re better than you, you’re better than them.

Suitable drinks: beer, vodka, soup, giving up

While cocktail making isn’t the most important part of a party, filling the wrong sink with ink could have guests questioning your moral compass and projected survival rate amongst others of your kind. ‘What a sociopath,’ your mom may say as she leaves your apartment for the last time in disgust. ‘I give him till next week,’ your fiancé may retort to their best mate as they toss your ring into the garbage disposal unit on their way out the closest window. Play it safe. Be aware. Use the right mug for your glug.

Alcohol has been around since the dawn of civilization. In fact, many theories point to the advent of agriculture as not a way to feed, but a way to ferment and be merry. In the Epic of Gilgamesh, a primitive man is transformed into an absolute gentleman upon imbibe-ment of ancient beer, putting organized drinking (including regulations) at around 3000 BC. Noah of the Bible was no sloucher himself. The first thing he ostensibly did after climbing off his boat was to build a handsome vineyard. Nowadays, alcohol is an almost essential part of social interactions, events, business trades, celebrations and gifts. 

However, everyone who has taken a sip knows it’s not all sparkles and rainbows. The green death that befalls many of us the following day can be rather debilitating. For those putting down the party plans, it’s easy for the drinks to keep flowing upon its culmination and the night to end in more of a blur than anticipated and an Uber ride home. So how do we possibly stave off paying the iron price come dawn? 

Science!

cocktails party hangover

Event cocktails at Jockey Silks Bourbon Bar.

First, we should look at what exactly causes your body to act in such an abhorrent fashion. Come at me, science! Unfortunately, the topic is still rather debated by medical professionals. What we do know is that alcohol is a diuretic, as in it causes your kidneys to purge more often and your runs to the toilet more frequent, which in turn causes dehydration. Additionally, metabolizing alcohol creates a chemical called acetaldehyde, a nasty substance that turns to acetic acid, which decreases function of your two favorite bodily filters. 

Symptoms are not only caused by thirst and cellular damage. Alcohol is an addictive substance that causes withdrawal signs in Bacchanalian brothers who don’t want to stop the party. Shakes, anxiety and mood disorders are more associated with not having alcohol in your system rather than the opposite. For those in deep, hair of the dog (or slipping in a morning glass, for those who are unfamiliar) might not seem like the worst idea – given it is in no way better for your physical health. After all, a Bloody Mary certainly tastes like breakfast. But in this state, it is best to seek professional help. 

What is termed as alcohol addiction is probably more common than you think. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 40% of all alcohol drinkers report binge drinking as part of their habits in a given month. Newer findings point out that Americans generally underreport their trips to the bar, with probably about 30 million adults binge drinking at least once week. That’s more than the population of every state, excluding California. 

If you feel like you have a serious problem, drughelpline.org offers resources where people can seek help. We always advise drinking responsibility. It’s the classy thing to do.

Darker liquids are worse than clear ones

While you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, you should definitely judge a drink by its color. Darker spirits, such as whiskey, rum or red wine, will have you feeling the beat of the tambourine far more than clear liquids, such as vodka. Sorry, bourbon lovers, we drink at our peril. This is due to a high concentration of something called congeners that get metabolized into formaldehyde. And while the substance is great for preserving dead frogs in a jar, it is a highly toxic substance to have floating around your veins.

Snacking on protein

One of the worst things you can do is drink on an empty stomach. Party planners should do their guests a favor and spread food options around the room every time people are throwing back the champagne. And while any food will do the trick, protein-rich munchables are highly suggested as they take a relatively long time to digest. Nuts, meat and cheese keep your stomach busy, which in turn keeps your pyloric valve closed longer, stopping flow from your stomach into your intestine where most of the alcohol is absorbed. Eating both slows down the process and dilutes the booze, keeping you from being red-eyed and bushy-tongued come morning.

Carbonated beverages

For those looking to avoid paying the high cost of low living, it might do to put down the beer and the bubbly. While beer may have less alcohol content than some of its cousins, carbonation causes your body to open that pyloric valve faster, pushing your undiluted swill straight to your blood. Higher blood content levels at specific times lead to higher severity of tomorrow’s wrath of the grapes. Stick to drinking alcohol on the rocks with a quick chase of water. You look classier anyway.

Water, water, water

For those of you who wake up clutching your head and whispering horrible nothings to an (possibly) empty room, you may want to reach for some water. Ethanol, the key party ingredient in alcohol, dries out your brain. That’s right, your brain. By suppressing a hormone called arginine vasopressin, which regulates water levels in your body, water is shed from your corpus while on the drink causing your brain to actually decrease in size. Surprise! Shrinkage after a night dancing with the fairies happens in more than just one place. 

Escape from divine punishment

Is there not a way to just get rid of it all together? The answer has been, for quite some time, not really. The number of painful things that alcohol does to your system are far too vast and complicated to engineer a pill that sweeps them all away. Mitigating numbers of glasses, making smarter choices, limiting your weekly schedule and staying hydrated are the best ways to avoid waking up to the technicolor yawn. Remember, an aspirin doesn’t hurt. See you at the party.

For more info about booking a party at Jockey Silks follow this link.