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DANA POINT was named for Richard Henry Dana, Jr., author of “Two Years Before The Mast”. He referred to StillWater Bay (now Capistrano Bay) as the most Romantic spot on the Coast. Inspired by our history here in Southern California and the era of happiness and peace we welcome you StillWater Spirits and Sounds.
The Prohibition Era, once called "the great social and economic experiment, noble in motive and far reaching in purpose" by President Herbert Hoover, spanned more than a decade in the United States and prohibited the manufacture, sale, and transportation, but not consumption, of alcohol. Beginning in 1920 and ending in 1933 after the Cullen-Harrison Act and the ratification of the 21st amendment by the Congress, this time period sparked a surge organized crime and quite literally moved the alcohol business underground.
While exceptions existed, such as medicinal or for taking sacrament, the black market for alcohol flourished. As a whole, society continued to imbibe, on new terms and in new locations. Fine bars no longer found street front, patrons sought alternative locales at which to partake. Here, the phenomenon of drinking to get drunk, rather than an accompaniment to dining and socializing, became a popular pastime. In an interview with Daniel Okrent, author of “Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition,” he stated “But Prohibition didn't stop drinking; it simply pushed the consumption of booze underground. By 1925, there were thousands of speakeasy clubs operating out of New York City, and bootlegging operations sprang up around the country to supply thirsty citizens with alcoholic drinks.” In his book, Okrent writes of speakeasies, “. . .most were closer to the lower end. They were dives where you drank bad liquor from a bottle with a counterfeit label and woke up with a headache in the morning.”
Certainly in the early years of Prohibition, an abundance of devoted law enforcement agents heightened the need for secrecy, and speakeasy patrons needed passcards or passwords. However, corruption, and foreseeably, inertia, took over fairly quickly and the perceived need for a facade faded. Sensing the place to record the place of speakeasies in history, American caricaturist Al Hirschfeld produced a collection of comics in his book “Manhattan Oases.” In one sketch, a contrived cigar store called the Dixie is mocked as “one of those quaint, old-fashioned places (circa 1925), which still think it needs a false front” and references the shift in the sense of pretense felt at the epoch of the era. In fact, in most large cities, such as San Francisco, New York, Detroit and New Orleans, speakeasies existed under considerably less than circumspect circumstances. These bars operated at a simple level of implied diplomacy with local (bribed) law enforcement and with little effort to maintain the artifice of secrecy. “The secret aspect in New York was over by 1928 or 1929,” Mr. Okrent said. “To run a speakeasy you just bribed the local cop. There was not a lot of secrecy.”
However, illegal liquor did add a certain excitement to nightlife. While booze may have been officially off the menu, demand for potent libations was very much still alive. Lesley M. M. Blume, author of Let's Bring Back: The Cocktail Edition, says "There really did seem to be a proliferation of wonderful and amusing drinks during this period.” However, with the traditional liquor no longer readily accessible, the fine drinks of the earlier part of the century disappeared along with the bartenders who served them. These were replaced by a new breed of cocktail designed to mask the flavor of the subpar liquors. Famed Esquire magazine writer Frank Shay wrote in 1934, “The basic raw materials then available, and I use the term raw advisedly, made it imperative that they be polished or doctored or decorated. Also it was essential that their rougher edges be smoothed down in order that they might pass to their true goal without too great distress to the drinker.” These often odious cocktails, known by delightful names such as “The Bees Knees,” “Between the Sheets,” “The Flu,” and Poop-Poop-a-Doop,” included ingredients such as rye, ginger ale and citrus juice. The Orange Blossom, a mix of gin and orange juice joined drinks such as The Bronx, a martini with orange juice, The Alexander, a regustin concoction of gin, crème de cacao and cream and the Clover Club, a mix of gin, egg whites, lemon juice and raspberry syrup, on Esquire’s list of “the pansies,” the worst drinks of the entire Prohibition era.
However, poor tasting cocktails were the least of the problems in the underground booze business. When “drug store whiskey” wasn’t available citizens took to bootlegging and mixing hooch in their homes, coining terms such as “bathtub gin” and “moonshine.” While simple enough to make, these drinks could easily became toxic; reports of death or ailments from drinking poisoned liquor were recorded nationwide. Extract of Jamaica ginger, or “jake,” a patent medicine with a high alcohol content, for example, contained a neurotoxin that caused its devotees to lose the use of their hands and feet, hence the term “jake leg.”
Clearly the effort to impose a level of sobriety upon society had failed, and in 1933 Prohibition ended. Some say President Franklin D. Roosevelt celebrated by enjoying a dirty martini, his preferred drink.While the time had come to an end,the apothic drinks, decor, and atmosphere found in the undeniable allure of a secret hideaway remained well past the end of the Prohibition. The era left with us with not only a new line of cocktails, but a lasting sense of daring and exhilaration found in the masquerade of the speakeasy generation.--