June 9: The Fall Of A Nation

Carrie_NationI know it’s bad form to celebrate the anniversary of someone’s death; but let’s be real here folks, there are some truly awful people who went out of their way to do more harm than good. As such, I think that even the most goodhearted people in the world are entitled to thumb their nose at or dance upon the grave of those who were truly despicable. For my money, Carrie Nation was one of those people who went out of her way to do the wrong thing, and it was on this day in 1911 that Nation went off to that great temperance hall in the sky.

For those of you who don’t know, Carrie Nation was perhaps the late 19th century’s most fervent anti-alcohol advocate.  For the record, I’ve got no qualms with teetotalers, I merely have a problem with Nation’s deranged tactics. Nation was a straight up crazy person. After allegedly being told by God Himself to rid America of demon liquor, Nation began to go to local saloons and smash up everything in site. Initially, Nation used rocks and whatever instruments of destruction she had on hand. After her first few raids, her then husband jokingly suggested she use a hatchet to cause more damage. The nutcase took the suggestion at face value and considered this to be a brilliant idea, saying “That is the most sensible thing you have said since I married you.” Nation would proceed to use a hatchet in her attacks on saloons from that point on, and would eventually be arrested over 30 times between 1901 and 1910. So, how insane was Carrie Nation? Nation actually applauded the assassination of President McKinley because she had suspicions that he was a secret drinker and drinkers always “got what they deserved.”

Not surprisingly, Nation made many enemies in her day and was often the subject of easy mockery. One of my favorite stories about Nation involves her being invited to speak at Yale University in 1902 by a group called the Jolly Eight. Unbeknownst to Nation, the Jolly Eight were a group of friends dedicated to the fine art of wine, women and partying. The story goes that the group sat through one of Nation’s temperance lectures and afterwards asked if they could take a photograph with her. In those days, not only was flash powder required to take a photo, but the room needed to be completely dark immediately before and after the photo was taken. So, in the darkness, everyone got ready to pose and the Jolly Eight brought out cigarettes, pipes, flasks and a beer stein to make it appear as if Nation was participating in a particularly raucous college party. To this day, the actions of the Jolly Eight are considered to be one of the greatest college pranks of all time.

In coming up for a drink to mark Nation’s death, I was sadden to discover that there was no good “Carrie Nation Cocktail.” There are a couple of drinks named after her, but naturally they’re all alcohol free. So, I was stumped until I recalled another famous instance of clever drinkers mocking militant temperance advocates. In 1923, at the height of Prohibition, the Anti-Saloon League proposed a contest (with a $200 prize) to create a word that could be used to condemn drinkers and would “best expresses the idea of a lawless drinker, menace, scoffer, bad citizen, or whatnot, with the biting power of ‘scab’ or ‘slacker.’” In 1924, the winning word “scofflaw” was announced. Not even a week after the announcement, Harry’s New York Bar in Paris unveiled a new cocktail, also called The Scofflaw. The drink’s a sharp, but delicious joke at the expense of the temperance movement and the exact kind of thing that Carrie Nation would have hated.

The Scofflaw

  • 1 ounce Canadian Whiskey
  • 1 ounce Dry Vermouth
  • 1/4 ounces lemon juice
  • dash of Grenadine
  • dash of Orange Bitters

Stir in a cocktail shaker half-filled with ice, strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with an orange twist.

Tomorow: The pen is mightier.

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