The Prohibition era, a 13-year long dry spell during which alcohol was outlawed in the U.S., was a time of backdoor bars and creative cocktails. Thankfully for us, 81 years ago Congress played takesies backsies with the 18th Amendment and now December 5 is officially known as Repeal Day, a.k.a. the perfect excuse to sip on some Prohibition-style beverages.
Since hooch was produced on the sly during that time, it often came out too stiff for modest drinkers — hence the necessity for cocktails. Bartenders would incorporate fruity flavors, juices, sodas and other sweeteners to try to cut the strong booze. Today modern drink slingers continue to use recipes from that era, including the still popular French 75 (gin, Champagne and lemon), Highball (whiskey and soda) and Sidecar (typically Cognac, Cointreau and lemon).
Here are a few joints around town that offer their own twists on Prohibition-style cocktails, including some of our favorite drinks.
East Side Show Room
This East Sixth Street eatery comes with a full spectrum of Prohibition-era cocktails. You can go for something a little more traditional like the Carthusian Swizzle with Green Chartreuse, Falernum, lime and pineapple or be adventurous with one of the mezcal tequila cocktails.
You'll have to keep your eyes peeled to find this cozy cocktail bar nestled downtown on Colorado Street in (you guessed it) a parking garage, but once you do you'll fall in love with the circular bar — and the delicious drinks. Try a seasonal menu offering or sip on a Queen Anne's Lace made with gin and sarsaparilla bitters and infused with maple, carrot, lime and peach flavors.
This Rainey Street venue is known for its extensive stash of whiskey, but The Blackheart also offer a variety of other cocktails. Go for one of the many whiskey drinks or mix things up with the Gertie, which has Plymouth Gin, bitters, blackberry and creme de mure.
No Va Kitchen & Bar
Just across the street, the folks at No Va will be celebrating Repeal Day with a special cocktail menu including gin drinks, whiskey mixes and a little something called a "Jack Rose," which is crafted with Laird's AppleJack brandy, grenadine and lime.
The Tigress Pub
Avoid the hustle and bustle of downtown and spend Repeal Day on North Loop. Go traditional with a Rusty Nail or embrace the season with a Stone Fence, what The Tigress Pub calls the "winter cousin" of a Moscow Mule.
Just around the corner from Tigress you'll find tasty treats and delicious drinks at drink.well. It will be hard to pick something off of its cocktail menu when you've got everything from boysenberry bourbon to rum with cacao and orange bitters to an interesting take on a Streetcar.
Freedmen's is another out-of-the-way option for a Friday evening drink. Keep it simple and head over to this West Campus gem for its classic Gin and Tonic or something a little more robust like the Ol' Schmokey, a bourbon pecan cocktail.
Behind a bookcase in an old fire station on Brazos Street, you'll find this warm little speakeasy. Its cocktail menu offers a handful of options with great prices, but to really get in the Prohibition mood we suggest the appropriately named gin and lemon drink called the Fitzgerald.
Speaking of Fitzgerald, you can also bask in an early 1900s vibe with a cocktail at the Gatsby. You can never go wrong with a classic, so we suggest The Gatsby's spin on a French 75.
If it's not too rainy, New York City transplant Weather Up on East Cesar Chavez has a quaint outside patio that's perfect for soaking up the last bit of fall. Fight off the gray skies with a Honeysuckle, a sweet cocktail that incorporates white rum, honey and lime.
This brothel turned luxury cocktail lounge hidden on Dirty Sixth requires a reservation, so if you're lucky enough to get in on Repeal Day you should celebrate with something intriguing like the Alamagoozlum, which includes Chartreuse, rum, curaçao and egg white.
No cocktail bar list would be complete without a nod to Peché, Austin's classy absinthe bar specializing in Prohibition-era drinks. They've got everything from traditional cocktail choices to daring absinthe mixes.