Part history lesson, part guided whisky-tasting,
Mark tells us that cocktails in the Prohibition were mainly means of disguising “bad hooch” — and, with the first of countless alcohol euphemisms, we’re off.
We begin with ‘The Rickey’, a simple drink mentioned in The Great Gatsby and made from gin, soda, lime, and ice. Mark tells us that cocktails in the Prohibition were mainly means of disguising “bad hooch” — and, with the first of countless alcohol euphemisms, we’re off. Later we sample moonshine — unaged grain distillate, which has an oddly grappa-like flavour — before moving on to spirits proper with a premium Cutty Sark. Our last drink contains no whiskies younger than 29 years old…
Meanwhile we build a picture of an era defined by its colourful figures. Have you heard of Carrie Nation, the ‘dry’ crusader who went at taverns with an axe, or Wayne Wheeler, who orchestrated Prohibition almost single-handedly? What about Bill McCoy, the ‘honest lawbreaker’ whose whisky developed a reputation for trustworthiness, Jack “Legs” Diamond, the gangster and bootlegger who survived being shot 8 times before he was finally murdered, or Roy Olmstead, the police lieutenant who was fired for rum-running and ended up becoming one of the wealthiest men in the world—and reputedly masterminded organised crime? Or perhaps most remarkable of all, Izzy and Moe, the special agent duo whose record 4392 arrests in 5 years owes much to their penchant for entering speakeasies in disguise — who impersonated, among many others, gravediggers, fishermen, opera singers, members of a football team and once (best of all) themselves?
It’s a lot to retain and don’t be surprised if you find yourself a little light-headed by the end of the show. You’ll also walk away feeling a little wiser and little keener to find out more. Moonshine, Medicine and the Mob is a great way to begin an evening and I can imagine few better introductions to ‘the water of life’.