When the Volstead Act officially became law in January 1920, the economic effect on the city of Boston was enormous. Most bars and lounges quickly closed down, while others struggled along by selling “near beer” and weak cider. Illegal speakeasies sprung up all over the city, while Bostonians made ghastly homemade concoctions in their basements. Mob-controlled bootlegging and distribution took over as money flowed into gangsters’ pockets. But Prohibition also took a huge toll on the city’s breweries and distilleries, felling an immensely important industry, shuttering numerous companies, and taking away thousands of jobs.
Boston history writer and journalist Stephanie Schorow explored this dark era in her recent book, Drinking Boston—and on Tuesday, May 14th, she will trace the effects of Prohibition and the long-standing consequences of the “Noble Experiment” at the Boston Public Library’s Kirstein Business Library at 6 p.m. The event is free and open to the public.
In Drinking Boston, Schorow serves up a remarkable cocktail representative of Boston’s intoxicating story: its spirit of invention, its hardscrabble politics, its mythology, and the city’s never-ending battle between personal freedom and civic reform—all told through the lens of the bottom of a cocktail glass.
Drinking Boston introduces readers to the cast of characters who championed or vilified drinking and the places where they imbibed—legally and otherwise. Bringing us to present day, this literary pub-crawl visits some of Boston’s most beloved and enduring neighborhood barrooms, ending with an examination of Boston’s very own recipe for the current cocktail renaissance sweeping the nation. Join Schorow at the Kirstein Library to learn more.
Schorow is the author of six books on Boston history, including Boston on Fire: A History of Fires and Firefighting in Boston, The Cocoanut Grove Fire, The Crime of the Century: How the Brinks Robbers Stole Millions and the Hearts of Boston, among others. A seasoned reporter, she has worked for the Boston Herald and the Associated Press.