A terrible thing happened in January of 1920. The National Prohibition Act (or the Volstead Act) was enacted and made the distillation, importation, and distribution of alcoholic beverages (except for medicinal spirits) illegal. Naturally, this led to organized crime and bootlegging. You can’t ask a whole county to give up their whiskeys, gins, and brandies out of the blue.
Inexplicably, this dark chapter in US history lasted for thirteen years before finally being overturned on December 5th, 1933. To pay homage to that bright day in American history (prohibitions deserve to fail, see: weed, mushrooms, MDMA, etc.), we celebrate Repeal Day every year. By drinking a lot of whiskey.
If you want to set it off, the best way to honor this important date is to drink some particularly potent whisk(e)y, the way they did it when hooch was banned. To help you find the best and strongest expressions to sip and mix with, we went to the professionals for help. A handful of our favorite bartenders told us their favorite high-proof whiskeys to drink on Repeal Day.
Check them all out below and hoist a dram to the end of Prohibition.
Fatima Kuras, general manager at 15 East @ Tocqueville in New York City
This Repeal Day I’m going to be drinking Dalmore 15 because it screams winter and holiday with its mandarin, vanilla, ginger, and crushed apple notes.
Rittenhouse Rye Bottled in Bond
Hayden Miller, head bartender at Bodega Taqueria y Tequila in Miami
Anything Bottled in Bond is a Repeal Day staple for my libation library. If I had to pick one, it would be Rittenhouse Rye. It’s always spicy and works well for this and any other holiday.
George T. Stagg
Brooks Cloud, founder and managing partner of Proof Old Fashioned Cocktail Syrup in Decatur, Georgia
If I’m picking a high-proof whiskey to drink on Repeal Day, I’m cracking open a bottle of George T. Stagg, no doubt. It has a great peppery spice, sweet caramel, and subtle maple flavors that make it perfect for sipping.
Knob Creek Single Barrel Reserve
Stefan Huebner, co-owner and head mixologist at Dot Dot Dot in Charlotte, North Carolina
Knob Creek Single Barrel or Booker’s will give you a nice 120 proof bourbon. For something more in-style, to pay homage to the old style of distilling, try Rittenhouse Rye, Old Overholt Rye, or even Old Tub Bottled-in-Bond.
Wild Turkey 101
Robert Gleim, managing partner at Bamboo Willie’s Beachside Bar in Pensacola, Florida
Wild Turkey 101. It’s an American Classic. Its strength is offset with the great spice and woodsy flavor that makes it a favorite, not to mention it’s been around for a long time.
Glenfiddich 15-Year-Old Distillery Edition
Sebastien Derbomez, brand advocacy manager at William Grant & Sons
During prohibition, Scotch whisky was regularly smuggled to the US, so what a better dram to pay homage to Repeal Day than Glenfiddich 15-Year-Old Distillery Edition? It is a special edition of the 15-Year-Old, non-chill filtered, which had been bottled at a higher strength.
This is a classic Scottish Single Malt with added complexity and character.
WhistlePig 10 -Year-Old Straight Rye
Gavin Humes, bartender at Scratch|Bar & Kitchen in Encino, California
I know what I’ll be drinking to celebrate, and that’s a nice pour of the WhistlePig 10 Year Straight Rye Whiskey. There are more expensive bottles, even from this producer, but for Repeal Day it’s not about drinking the most expensive, or even the fanciest. It’s about drinking something that is just delicious. And WhistlePig, even their “entry-level” bottle, is just that.
Maybe more interestingly, since most of the brand’s rye comes from Canada, it pays homage to all the Canadian spirits that got America through the dark Prohibition times.
Templeton Rye Barrel Strength
Jessica Balts, bartender at FireLake Grill House and Cocktail Bar in Bloomington, Minnesota
Hands down I’d go with Templeton Rye Barrel Strength. It was founded during Prohibition to keep their town afloat. Each release is a bit different, usually around 115 proof, but they don’t waver in their exceptionality.
Cutty Sark Prohibition Edition
If you’re going to lift a glass to the anniversary of the end of Prohibition in America, why not go with a whisky made to honor it? Cutty Sark Prohibition Edition is 100 proof, bold, brash, and filled with subtle spices, sweet vanilla, and dried fruits. Perfect on its own but shines in Prohibition-era cocktails like the ward eight, old fashioned, or a classic highball.
Old Forester 1920
Old Forester was one of only six Kentucky distilleries that were allowed to continue making whiskey (for medicinal purposes) during Prohibition. To pay homage to that era, the distillery launched Old Forester 1920, a prohibition-style whiskey, bottled at 115 proof and filled with flavors like buttery caramel, spicy cinnamon, and subtle rye pepper.