I had the privilege of spending the evening at one of my favorite local watering holes, Forbidden Island Tiki Lounge. They had a double-bill special program tonight, with a history talk and a rum tasting. Both turned out to be extremely interesting, and I’m glad I was there.
The talk was given by Richard Foss, author of Rum: A Global History. I’ve encountered Rich here and there over the years through some of the circles we share. His talk was “How Prohibition Changed America.” I can’t begin to remember everything involved, but here are some high points:
- Before Prohibition, drinking was a much more integrated part of American life. There were hundreds of local breweries and distilleries, and various alcoholic beverages were marketed as healthy. Not only that, but alcohol was the basis for many of the “herbal compounds” of the early 20th Century, from Lydia Pinkham’s Vegetable Compound on down the line.
- Prohibition was pushed as anti-immigrant (Irishmen and Germans drank; Irishmen and Germans were the Mexicans and Muslims of the early 20th Century), primarily by the then-Republican party, and much more by women than men. Drinking at bars became a predominently male occupation, and led to men not enjoying a leisurely dinner at home, because their wives were the ones pushing abstinence. (“Lips that touch liquor shall never touch mine!”)
- Many towns had two newspapers: One pro-prohibition, one anti. Apparently they seemed to report two entirely different views of reality.
- Beer and wine distributors supported the Volstead Act (which enacted Prohibition nationwide), thinking that it was only about distilled spirits. They were very surprised to discover that they were included.
- Americans got very creative about finding ways around Prohibition. Italian restaurants would give away wine with dinner, which helped Italian cuisine become popular.
- The way Utah ended up voting to repeal Prohibition apparently was sold by saying, “This will be adding tax to liquor. But since we good Mormons don’t drink, we won’t have to pay that tax, though we’ll get the benefits from it.”
And there was much, much more – this is just a rapid and random brain dump. It was enlightening, how many elements of our current culture and how people try to enact social change have been around for at least a hundred years.
And then there was the rum.
There’s a new “micro-distillery” in Kingman AZ called Desert Diamond Distillery, makers of Gold Miner Rum. They’ve been open about five years, serving four rums and a vodka. I got to taste them all.
The vodka and white rum are decent examples of their respective categories. The white rum has its own set of flavors and aftertastes, very unlike something like Bacardi. I happen to think this is a good thing for their white rum.
They have three dark rums. I can’t recall which of them tastes like bourbon and which is just a very good dark rum, but the agave rum has somewhat of a sweeter flavor, and they call it a “dessert rum.” Definitely smooth on the palate.
“Joe-Bob says check ‘em out.”