For a quick history on Repeal Day (December 5th), which marks the anniversary of the end of Prohibition in the U.S.A., please visit the official Repeal Day site. Jeffrey has done a terrific job setting out what its all about, so no need to repeat it here.
Being in Chicago, which was one of the hotbeds of the alcohol business during Prohibition, I struggled with what to write (plus its been a very busy week). I decided on a couple of cocktails, one for "hooch" and a decent one from the Prohibition era.
My trusty copy of the Savoy Cocktail Book contains a section I've never visited before, entitled "Cocktails Suitable for a Prohibition Country" (p. 184). One of these cocktails is similar to other drinks I've made, so I thought I'd give it a whirl.
Mr. Manhattan Cocktail
Crush 1 lump of sugar in a little water
Crush 4 leaves of fresh mint
1 Dash Lemon Juice
4 Dashes Orange Juice
1 Glass Gin
Shake well and strain into a cocktail glass.
Since this was suggested as a cocktail to make in a Prohibition country (the next one in the book actually calls for "hooch whisky"), I decided to make it with the gin in my collection that I like the very least. I guess I won't call it out by name (okay, I will - its Leyden Gin).
How was it?
Eh. It was better when we made it with a better gin, but it was only so-so. It seemed like it would require some tinkering to get it where you'd want to make it over and over again.
Another Fun Cocktail from the Prohibition Era
Just for fun, I thought I'd throw in a cocktail that I often enjoy that was created in the early 1920s, most likely by Harry McElhone (per Ted Haigh's excellent tome, Vintage Spirits & Forgotten Cocktails). As a few other bloggers found, there doesn't seem to be much other use for that bottle of Parfait Amour I bought awhile back, so I make this drink periodically.
Jupiter Cocktail (modified)
2 oz Dry Gin
1 oz Dry Vermouth
2 tsp Parfait Amour
2 tsp Fresh Squeezed Orange Juice
Shake all ingredients with ice, then strain into cocktail glass. Do measure the ingredients on this one!
Happy Repeal Day, don't forget the toast on December 5th!
Note: pictures in this post are from www.old-pictures.com and www.istockphoto.com. I'm having some photo difficulties and wanted to get this up by midnight my time!
Leyden Gin was a very famous type of Gin. Is it no longer a shadow of its former self?
I'm not really sure what happened to it, nor what it is supposed to taste like. Its very hard to find, I've only ever seen it in one liquor store (anyone else ever seen it?). I couldn't find a website for it, so I am not sure its even made/imported into the US anymore. The bottle says its from Luctor International (importers of Van Gogh products) and their website doesn't mention it.
My bottle is quite possibly old, I purchased it at a store that sometimes has very old products on the shelf. On first opening (and since), it has been relatively unspectacular. Its fairly light in flavor (one of the websites I saw said it was aimed at vodka drinkers). Overall, it is citrusy and hot, with very little juniper, and a lingering floral taste. It mucks up pretty much any cocktail I have put it in, at least so far.
I did a bit of googling, and as far as I can tell, the Leyden Gin brand was launched relatively recently, and yeah, is meant to be a modern light London Dry style Gin. In the following Food and Wine article from 1999, Pete Wells mentions it as being a new product.
The Gin Crowd, Pete Wells
"A new product called Leyden Dry Gin has tried to capitalize on this history. While it does have some juniper in it all right, and it is made in Leyden, it doesn't have much in common with the strong-tasting Dutch original. Leyden Dry Gin is one of the relatively tame new gins with only a hint of juniper's bite--just a nip, really. In fact, it hardly tastes like medicine at all. I can't imagine anyone using it to cure anything more serious than a case of nerves at the start of an office party."
That's similar to what I had seen. It sounded like it was launched around 1997 in the UK. I saw a BBC link that echoed the tasting notes you described. Leyden was(is) made at the Dirkzwager Distillery, which is owned by Luctor International. The distillery makes the Van Gogh gin & vodkas now, and those are the only products I can find mention of on any of the Luctor/Van Gogh websites.
I think the lack of information may suggest that its no longer being produced. I would greatly appreciate input from anyone who has this gin or has seen it being promoted at all? As I mentioned, I've only seen it in one store, and I've been in literally hundreds of liquor stores (part of my job).
I was just curious if you knew of any Repeal Day events in Chicago? I found one in the South Loop, but it is more of a special dinner and it just isn't what I'm looking for. If I can't find anything I'll just have to drag some friends to one of the ex-speakeasies or the Hour.
Thanks for your comment. I'm afraid I don't know about any other Repeal Day activities in Chicago, unfortunately. I had heard about that dinner also, but have been sad to not hear about anything else. We've planned our own cocktail bar crawl of sorts, and will likely be at the Hour at some point in the evening. However, we are first going to meet Eric Felten and get him to autograph a copy of his new book for us at The Drawing Room at Le Passage. They make great cocktails there, so it'll be fun to have one there tomorrow regardless.
Please let me know if you hear of anything else!
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