Friday, December 5, 2008

Happy Repeal Day everybody

As I said to a friend, Repeal Day is kind of like bartender Easter. Except, instead of the stone rolling away and Christ not being in his grave, it's more like the stone rolled away and the Volstead Act disappeared. Alcohol has risen, forever and ever, amen.

It seems like Repeal Day's prominence grew in recent years along with the whole classic cocktails and the professional cocktailian in the bar scene business. Of course, that could just be bias on my part since I've only started observing this section of the service industry in the past couple of years myself.

Either way, Repeal Day is starting to look more and more like an actual holiday. Not like day off holiday like Christmas or something, but more like...Halloween! Yes, that's exactly it. You don't get a day off, but you're more than willing to try and have some kind of fun with it, consequences be damned.

And just like this year's Halloween, Repeal Day falls on a Friday. You get a whole weekend to recover from it.

The folks at Dewar's Scotch Whiskey say that they were one of the first liquors to be served legally in the United States 75 years ago today, and to commemorate that, they're holding events in several cities. For example, in New Orleans, several historic bars and restaurants like the Hotel Monteleone Carousel Bar, Napoleon House, Court of Two Sisters, Antoine's and Commander's Palace, are participating in Repeal Day celebrations with drink specials.

There are 20 locations in New York also participating in the Dewar's Repeal Day festivities, with bars like Puck Fair, Old Town Bar, DBA and Side Bar serving Prohibition era drink specials and actors in period costume showing up to kick off the events.

Yerba Buena's Artemio Vasquez has a special drink list of classic cocktails for a Repeal Day menu that'll be available until the end of the month. Enjoy a Jack Rose Vieux Carre for just ten bucks and keep the party going until the New Year is knocking on your door.

I got an invite from Tad Carducci about Apothecary's Repeal Day party, but it's out in Philadelphia so it's not exactly a quick subway ride away.

Interestingly, these were the only bits of news I'd received about Repeal Day, and that didn't seem right at all. I tried hitting up Don Lee for some leads on what might be going on. He was getting ready to leave for Bordeaux and had only some fuzzy details about several events out of town (like in D.C.) and a possibility of drink specials at Death and Co.

I guess it was time to start using modern technology to my advantage.

I hit up Facebook and wrote "Hey, there better be some Repeal Day bartender shenanigans happening that I can write about. It falls on a Friday. Seriously, guys. Or I'll be a sad panda" as my new status.

Soon Jonathan Pogash informed me that DISCUS would be throwing a party at The Back Room. Neat, and noted. Anybody else? I ventured over to Alex Day's wall to leave a guilt trip message. He soon responded that Death and Company would be serving Old Fashioned, Manhattans and Sazeracs at a discounted price using good brown spirits ("Rittenhouse 23, last year's Antique Collection," he said).

I then pulled out my phone. And you have to understand that it's serious when my phone gets involved because I don't really like the telephone as a means of communication all that much. I compromise by copiously texting rather than actually talking. So I texted Kenta Goto if Pegu had anything planned and he responded that a bunch of classics would be on the menu as special drinks.

It doesn't have to be anything spectacularly special to celebrate Repeal Day, though I'd be surprised that more bars or alcohol serving establishments aren't taking advantage of today. Especially in an economy like this, why not have drink specials for a day that's all about celebrating the ability to drink? It seems like a great promotional opportunity to bring up beverage sales — particularly mixed drink sales — during the weird limbo we spend sandwiched between two holiday seasons that put more emphasis towards staying in with families than going out to celebrate.

And you know what, let people who don't drink join in on the fun. No need to hold grudges; Prohibition is in the past. In fact, use it to your advantage. Non-drinking friends on a night out with boozers need to drink something too. Especially if you're not a drinks-focused place like a cocktail lounge and more of a restaurant, think about the fun you could have. I think it'd be hilarious to feature a versus drink menu. One side could be called "The Prohibition Party" or "Dries" featuring either virgin versions of cocktails or some good non-alcoholic beverages while the other side has a cocktails section with names like "Wets" or "The REAL Party".

Either way, don't feel bad if you don't find yourself celebrating Repeal Day with bells and whistles. You don't have to retrain your staff to make fancypants cocktails if that's not what they do. Beer and well drink specials are fine. Maybe a boilermaker special called the "Because I Can"? The point is people can drink alcohol if and when they please! Wooooooo!

Or how about commemorating Repeal Day by simply providing great beverage service in honor of all that could've been lost in Prohibition. In fact, give your servers a background into the history as a bit of trivia they can provide their customers with that might edge them towards getting that glass of wine they were on the fence about.

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