Hey, it's Dan. I’ve never been very good with history, but I wanted to take this moment to celebrate the day that George Washington freed America’s alcohol from the Russians.
Happy Prohibition Repeal Day, everyone!
On this day 80 years ago, Congress actually did something helpful and ratified the 21st Amendment, which ended the era of Prohibition. (Just imagine a world where it’d be illegal to drink at tailgating parties, weddings or job interviews.) To slurp this day in properly, I two-fistedly recommend taking a trip to the famous ‘21’ Club located smack-dab in the middle of the boozy heart of Manhattan.
Opened in 1923, ‘21’ became one of the most celebrated speakeasies in the city, renowned for its secret Wine Cellar hidden behind a fake brick wall in a fake pantry. And here's the extra super-sneaky trick: the wine cellar isn't actually part of the '21' building at all; it is in the basement of No. 19 next door. So if authorities asked the bar staff if they had any liquor on the premises, they could honestly say "No." Clever! The Wine Cellar was a magnet for famous New Yorkers looking to get their illegal swerve on: Politicians, entertainers, and mobsters all mixed it up, sipping bourbon and martinis, presumably while doing those weird herky-jerky dance steps from the '20s.
I was lucky enough to take a trip to the saucy storage unit and here’s what I saw while I could still see straight.
This is me getting a hernia as I push open the massive brick door located in a fake basement pantry. Why didn’t someone tell me my ass looks that big in khakis?
This is what the Wine Cellar looked like back in the ‘20s:
And this is what it looks like now:
As you can see, it is now set up as a super fancy dining area. The lighting is sexy, the room is cozy, and no, Dominos does not deliver. After Prohibition ended, famous folks like Sophia Loren, Richard Nixon, and Mae West stored their private collections down here. And more recently, diners could buy a bottle from the collection for their underage children, and the ‘21’ Club would store it here until he, she, or he/she turned 21.
Here’s one that caught my eye:
Chelsea, what are you waiting for? Come get your wine before it spoils with age!
Here is a sommelier displaying a $12,000 bottle of wine. I’d take a sip, but I hate the cheap shit.
Upon re-emerging to the surface (it took three busboys and one taser to get me out of the Cellar), I hit the upstairs bar and tried one of the ‘21’ Club’s signature Prohibition-era cocktails: The Southside. It was delicious, but rather than bore you with my tongue’s opinions, I’ll give you the recipe to try it yourself.
2 oz. Tanqueray gin
1 oz. Mint simple syrup
4-5 Fresh mint leaves
Juice of one lemon
Splash of soda
Place all ingredients in a mixing glass, and shake vigorously to bruise mint leaves. Strain into a Collins glass filled with ice. Garnish with a sprig of mint. Lift glass to you mouth and gently suck.
Happy Repeal Day!