What do FDR, Utah and booze have in common? If you guessed Repeal Day you'd be correct. On Dec. 5, 1933, Prohibition, or the 18th Amendment — that dark swathe of government-mandated alcoholic abstinence which lasted 14 years — was officially repealed with the deciding vote coming from the state of Utah.
When Prohibition first went into effect, alcohol was blamed for everything from crime to poverty to addiction. Ironically, outlawing alcohol brought more crime — it spurred the rise of the mob — and led to an underground movement to produce and distribute booze (rum runners, speakeasies, bathtub gin) the likes of which hasn't been seen since. People were drinking more than they had before the ban and soon unhappy imbibers started making their voices (or should we say vices?) heard. So much so that one of the platforms that Franklin Delano Roosevelt ran on for president was the repeal of the 18th Amendment. The history books may skirt the issue but FDR won the election as much for his New Deal as for his love of a cocktail.
As would only be fitting in a city where the cocktail renaissance is in grand form, bars and restaurants across town are celebrating Repeal Day. The offerings are so many and so welcoming that you may find it difficult to choose only one spot for your day's reveals. Partake of a few — responsibly of course — and raise a glass or two to our bibulous freedom.
Bigfoot Lodge: Bigfoot Lodge and its Westside sister Bigfoot West will be serving up $1 cocktails from 7-9 p.m. There is a limit of two drinks per customer. Bar hopping note: Bigfoot West is just a block away from its fellow 1933 Group bar Oldfield's Liquor Room, which is offering the same specials. Bigfoot Lodge: 3172 Los Feliz Blvd., Los Angeles; 323-662-9227. Bigfoot West: 10939 Venice Blvd., Los Angeles; 310-287-2200.
Cole's Red Car Bar and The Varnish: Starting at 3 p.m., the judging for the Fifth Annual Jimmy Barella Bartending Competition kicks off at Cole's. Against a backdrop of live jazz music, some of L.A.'s most dynamic bartenders will compete in a three-round battle of mixing and stirring. The evening — Cole's as the main room and the Varnish in the back of Cole's — will be filled with opportunities including $5 Old Overholt Punch and an ice luge. Guests are encouraged to dress in their best 30's attire. The Varnish: 118 E. Sixth St., Downtown; 323-622-9999. Cole's: 118 E. Sixth St., Downtown; 213-622-4090.
Circa: Manhattan Beach will be toasting the day at Circa with a Repeal Day Party starting at 10pm. Guests must come in costume, but once they are gussied up, they can enjoy a live band and punch specials — $6 a glass or $100 for an entire bowl. 903 Manhattan Ave, Manhattan Beach; (310) 374-4422.
Comme Ca: With a bar program entitled 18A (as in Amendment), you can count on Comme Ca to deliver the goods on Repeal Day. For $6, you can order a Gin Rickey, Sazerac, Manhattan or Negroni. 8479 Melrose Ave., WeHo; 323-782-1104.
Corner Door: Bartender Beau DuBois will toast Repeal Day as he does every year — with a Sazerac made with Pierre Ferrand Cognac 1840 instead of rye. One could follow DuBois's lead or, after 9 p.m., can enjoy $5 Old Fashioneds. 12477 W. Washington Blvd., Los Angeles.
Del Monte SpeakeasyTownhouse: In the basement of Townhouse in Venice, the Del Monte, which was a real speakeasy during Prohibition, won't disappoint on Dec. 5, combining celebration and education in one night for a private event from 7-9 p.m. Starting at 7 p.m., the Brad Kay Regressive Jazz Quartet will be performing. This will be followed by a Repeal Day history talk by Richard Foss.
Guests will be served complimentary Repeal Day punch, as well as three cocktails that correspond to Foss's talk. The event will also include a roast pig and various side dishes. $25 per person all inclusive. The Del Monte will be open to the public after the event with $1 cocktails from 10-11 p.m. The Townhouse will serve $5 Repeal Day punch and $9 Repeal Day cocktails all night starting at 7 p.m. and $1 cocktails from 10-11pm. 52 Windward Avenue, Venice; 310-392-4040.
The Hungry Cat: At their Hollywood, Santa Monica Canyon, and Santa Barbara locations, the Hungry Cat will offer all-day Happy Hours with 1/2 price cocktails and craft beer. Hollywood: noon-11 p.m.; Santa Monica Canyon: 5:30-10 p.m. 1535 Vine St., Hollywood; 323-462-2155. 100 W. Channel Road, Santa Monica.
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La Cuevita: The 1933 Group is known for setting up shop in “emerging” areas and Highland Park fits the bill. Like 1933's other bars, La Cuevita is doling out $1 Repeal Day cocktails from 7-9 p.m. with a two-drink limit. 5922 N. Figueroa St., Los Angeles; 323-255-6871.
Sassafras Saloon: Another venture from the 1933 Group, whose moniker comes from that December 5 day in 1933, Sassafras is a Southern oasis of repeal charm. They will serve $1 cocktails from 7-9 p.m. Two drinks per customer please. 1233 Vine St., Los Angeles; 323-467-2800.
The Thirsty Crow: Silver Lake denizens can celebrate close to home here with two-per-person $1 cocktails from 7-9 p.m. 2939 W. Sunset Blvd., Silver Lake; 323-661-6007.
A final word. If you find that your unbridled joy in celebrating your freedom to consume gets a bit out of hand, head the Hang-Over advice of Beau DuBois from the Corner Door:”I usually make a grilled cheese sandwich with some sharp cheddar, two fried eggs and some arugula that has been tossed in a lemon vinaigrette. After that and many glasses of water, I chug chamomile tea all day to keep my system settled. Works like a charm!”
Lesley blogs at 12 Bottle Bar, tweets at @12BottleBar and is the author of the book “Gin: A Global History.” Email her at email@example.com. Want more Squid Ink? Follow us on Twitter or like us on Facebook.