In today’s world, who would’ve thought there was a time we weren’t allowed to purchase and drink alcohol whenever we wanted. In 1919, Congress passed the 18th Amendment, which prohibited the manufacture, transportation, sale, and purchase of alcohol. As a result, organized crime became more prevalent, especially through the practice of “bootlegging.” The mixologists at Vokva Vodka celebrate the 100th anniversary of Prohibition by telling the story of a dry America during the Roaring ’20s.

The Start of a Movement

Contrary to what most may believe, the Prohibition movement started 100 years prior to the ratification of the 18th Amendment. During the 1820s and 30s, alcohol consumption started to soar throughout the United States. As a result, religious groups promoted the idea that alcohol was a national curse; they believed it contributed to domestic violence and negatively impacted family life. In 1838, the first temperance legislation was passed in Massachusetts, outlawing the sale of spirits in less than 15-gallon quantities.

In 1873, the Women’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) of Ohio called for a ban on the sale of alcohol. The Anti-Saloon League (ASL), another Ohio group, joined the movement and soon became a national organization backing political leaders who supported the prohibition of saloons. In 1906, the ASL raised their movement against alcohol at a state level through speeches, advertisements, and public demonstrations at saloons and bars. [1] They argued that by prohibiting the sale of alcohol, poverty and social vices will finally be wiped out from American society.

Federal Prohibition Legislation

After the 1916 congressional elections, “dry” members (those in favor of prohibiting the sale of alcohol across the U.S.) outnumbered “wet” members by a two-thirds majority in the U.S. Congress. With enough members of Congress in favor of the prohibition of alcohol, the 18th Amendment was passed on January 29, 1919, and would take effect the following year.

Soon after the 18th Amendment was passed, the National Prohibition Act – also known as the Volstead Act – was also passed to help the federal government enforce Prohibition. However, there were loopholes in the act where liquor was still acceptable for medicinal, sacramental, or industrial purposes. [1]

Life During the Prohibition Era

Even though the 18th Amendment was a federal law, that didn’t stop others from getting their hands on alcohol. In fact, “bootlegging,” which was the illegal manufacturing and selling of liquor, became popular. Bootlegging was more prevalent in metropolitan areas than small towns since law enforcement was weaker in these areas, leaving plenty of room for organized crime to take place. The mafia and other gangs took full control of bootlegging the more it went underground, helping them create a more refined network and profit from this practice.

The mafia had most of the control over the bootlegging business, so they encouraged the police and politicians to look the other way with bribery.  One of the most notorious mobsters, Al Capone, made an annual profit of $60 million from his bootlegging and speakeasy businesses. Besides bootlegging, gambling and prostitution started to gain popularity during the Prohibition era as well, an outcome the 18th Amendment was originally intended to reduce.

Prohibition’s Legacy

The Prohibition Era made an impact on American society for years to come, contributing to the continuous rise of organized crime and inspiring the idea of a federal income tax to make up for the funds lost from bootlegging.

What we can also learn during the 100th anniversary of Prohibition is that banning a product that’s harmful to a person’s health will only make people want to do it more, regardless of federal law. Instead, legislators should hit them where it hurts: the taxpayer’s pockets. For example, the increasing price of tobacco products helped reduce the number of adult smokers from 20.9% in 2005 to 17.8% in 2013. [2]

 

If you’d like to raise a glass to the 100th anniversary of the Prohibition Era with a taste of our gluten-free products, contact a mixologist on our team today!

 

 

Sources:

[1] History – 18th and 21st Amendments

[2] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – Adult cigarette smoking rate overall hits all-time low