This article in New York magazine is a thought-provoking piece on how Prohibition created modern social drinking customs — for instance, the ability to flirt in bars.
All right, that’s not the biggest social advance ever chalked up. Still, it’s interesting to consider how Prohibition changed America’s drinking landscape. Before, we had exclusively male saloons; afterward, we had “Cheers.” The nightclub is also a child of Prohibition, along with the cocktail party. Writer Daniel Okrent draws his observations and reasoning from his book, Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition, which is definitely on my to-read list.
It’s also interesting to think how many families may have Prohibition stories — and how many of us might not think to ask about them. Prohibition is so long gone that we completely forget what a fact of everyday life it was once upon a time. I only know of one family story from this era, and it’s straightforward — my German grandfather brewed beer in the cellar during Prohibition. It wasn’t bootlegging or running a speakeasy, but I used to think this was pretty exotic, at least until homebrewing became fashionable a few years back and Grandpa began to look like a hipster before his time.
I must make a mental note to ask about Prohibition next time I’m scouting out family stories. Who knows what might come up?