Mixology Monday: Repeal Day

Darcy O'Neil :: December 3, 2007 9:40 PM

MM-22As I stare out the window at the blizzard like conditions I’m realizing, as a Canadian, that Repeal Day has a different meaning for me. In the United States of America it is a celebration of freedom and the removal of political babysitters that dictate what a person can and can’t do, based on a minority belief. I do agree that the consumption of alcohol needs to be moderated, since overconsumption was such a huge issue in the 18th and 19th centuries. But the idea of prohibition was just a bad idea. So Repeal Day is something that needs to be remembered, and thanks to Jeffrey Morgenthalers dedication to the topic, I doubt it will soon be forgotten.

During last years celebration, I wrote about Canada’s contribution to the “noble experiment” in the US. As noted, Canada had its brush with prohibition, but it never had the political intensity that it did south of the border. People could still drink alcohol in Canada, just not in public. Manufactures could also produce alcoholic drinks, as long as it was for export. And Ontario wine managed to escape most of prohibition, so wine was still available.

In Ontario the results of prohibition are government control of the sale and distribution of alcoholic beverages. They created the Liquor Control Board of Ontario which for a long period of time was more restrictive than Communist border checks. Basically, you would line up, look at the spirit selections on a wall (no bottles), fill out your paper work, present it too a clerk, who would then go through a door and return with your product. The bottle would then go into an unmarked brown paper bag and you would quietly exit the building. Fun times I’m sure.

Luckily, the Ontario government got a personality and opened up the modern LCBO stores, which may not be perfect, but are actually well run. The staff is knowledgeable, the stores are clean and well stocked. You can find the complete inventory online and they regularly promote new products. The down side is that they don’t stock a lot of products for classic cocktails, like Maraschino liqueur, nor do they allow single bottle orders.

The point I’m trying to make is that prohibition still has an effect 80 years later. But, there are still alcoholics and drunk drivers. I’ve never been a fan of punishing the majority for the sins of the minority. But that is basically what prohibition did and is still doing.

On the other side is the criminal element created during prohibition. Since alcohol was illegal in the US, it opened up a new revenue source for unscrupulous individuals. It also created the surly bartender, of which I am no fan. The term “opening a can of worms” comes to mind. There are always consequences to any action, even if it is thought to be for the greater good. In the end prohibition may not have had any real benefit and it definitely didn’t have the intended effect.


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