Posts Tagged ‘Scott N. Howe’

April 25th, 2010

Probing Prohibition


By Scott N. Howe

It was, of course, a stupid idea.

The 18th Amendment to the Constitution, which prohibited the “manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors” in the U.S., expanded government involvement in the lives of citizens and turned millions of regular folks who just wanted a beer into criminals. The amendment, and the Volstead Act that enforced it, also led to an explosion in organized crime, encouraged legitimate businesses to circumvent the law, and subjected the United States to the ridicule of many throughout the world. Winston Churchill called Prohibition “an affront to the whole history of mankind.”

Today, it seems amazing that it happened at all, but Daniel Okrent’s new book, Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition, makes as much sense of the era as can be made. The book illuminates the social and political factors that led to Prohibition’s passage in 1919. The women’s suffrage movement, mixed with anti-immigrant sentiment and shaken vigorously with righteous, saloon-hating religious elements, created a potent cocktail that intoxicated just enough congressmen and state legislators to enshrine the 18th Amendment into the Constitution.

Last Call humanizes Prohibition, discussing many individuals who made their names on both the “wet” and “dry” sides of the issue — people like Al Capone, Billy Sunday, H.L. Mencken, William Jennings Bryan, Carrie Nation, Susan B. Anthony, and Sam Bronfman – the Canadian bootlegger who went on to run the Seagram’s empire. Okrent also re-introduces several long-forgotten figures who played important roles during the era, including the Anti-Saloon League’s Wayne Wheeler, a political operative Okrent compares to Karl Rove, and Assistant Attorney General Mabel Willebrandt, arguably the most famous and powerful woman in America during the 1920s.

Drinkboston readers will find plenty of local angles in Last Call. For example, the book examines the work of Dorchester’s Mary Hanchett Hunt, who brought temperance education to millions of American school kids in the late 1800s and even established a “Scientific Temperance Museum” at her home on Trull Street. You’ll also find a detailed look at how bootleggers along the East Coast’s “Rum Row” brought booze to New England during the ‘20s, as well as a convincing argument that Joseph P. Kennedy was not, in fact, a bootlegger.

Those looking for a rollicking ride through the Roaring ’20s, however, may be disappointed in Last Call. Yes, you’ll find flirty flappers, charmingly corrupt politicians, saucy speakeasies, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and even Elliott Ness’s “Untouchables.” Mostly, however, you’ll find a sober (sorry) look at a twisted time in American history. So sober, in fact, that Okrent includes the entire text of the U.S. Constitution in the book’s appendix. That’s because Last Call isn’t about what happens when you take a drink, it’s about what happens when the law takes that drink away.

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Posted in Books & resources | No Comments »

July 7th, 2009

Drinkboston in NOLA … and Wellfleet!

Just a quick post before I leave on a Jet Blue plane for New Orleans and my third annual stint at the booziest convention in the known universe, Tales of the Cocktail. I’ll be tweeting (yes, I finally took up microblogging) and posting during the festivities — my posts will appear here and on the official Tales Blog. (See my preview post on Sunday’s hangover seminar.) So check back over the next few days, y’all.

I hear this a lot during the days leading up to Tales: Am I going to be able to get a decent drink in Boston that week? Yes, don’t worry. It’s true that a lot of industry folk from Boston participate, but they don’t all go at the same time, or for the whole time. There will still be talent behind the stick at most if not all of the best cocktail-centric Boston bars.

happy-oyster-showMeanwhile, starting this Sunday, July 12, drinkboston guest blogger Scott N. Howe will be performing in the Happy Oyster Spectacular Show at the Wellfleet Harbor Actors Theater (WHAT) in Wellfleet, Cape Cod (whose oysters kick southern oysters’ ass — sorry New Orleans). The premise of this part-live, part-video comedy that Scott co-wrote: “Two Wellfleet oystermen, Hewlett Packard and Pitney Bowes, host a variety show featuring live sketches, video, musical performances, and segments on oysters, clams, experimental theater, lyme disease, documentary filmmaking and dog poop.”

I will unfortunately still be in NOLA for the first show, but luckily there are five more running through August 23. Scott and his troupe are funny people, so if you’re looking for some laughs in the outer Cape this summer, check it out. (Buy tix here.)

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Posted in New Orleans | 4 Comments »

March 5th, 2009

The tipping point

The tipping pointBy Scott N. Howe

Here’s my problem, and it’s what some would call a nice problem to have. I never know much to tip a bartender who’s given me a free drink.

Now, of course, the idea that a barman/maid would be doling out cocktails on the sly to a favored customer is the kind of thing that would send many a bar manager into a yelling, kicking, firing rampage. But let’s face it. It happens. And it’s great that it does.

Once in a while a regular customer, someone who tips well and isn’t a nuisance, is rewarded with one on-the-house or a little something knocked off the tab. It’s a reward. A low-cost, highly appreciated “thanks” for making life behind the bar a little nicer. And it goes a long way. A freebie reinforces good behavior and builds customer loyalty. Besides, it’s a nice thing to do, and what goes around comes around. Karma, and all that.

I’ve been very fortunate to have been, from time to time, on the receiving end of a free drink or two or a suspiciously skimpy bar tab. It’s a wonderful feeling. At first. Then the dread kicks in. How much do I tip? I mean, I must overtip, but do I compensate for the free drink’s price penny for penny? Do I figure out what the actual bill would have been, then split the difference? Do I need a calculator? An accountant? A clue?

So, I turn to you, readers of drinkboston. What’s the tipping point?

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Posted in Bartenders | 15 Comments »