Frontier Psychiatrist

Frontier Mixology: Vol. 8, They Fought The Law And The Law Didn’t Win

Posted on: June 18, 2010

No one seems to have a kind word for the federal government these days, what with oil spills, healthcare, and questionable foreign incursions.  But during the fourteen long, dry years of Prohibition people really didn’t like the federal government.  Before Prohibition the majority of federal revenue had derived from excise taxes on liquor and beer, and it was only with the passage of the 16th amendment and the imposition of a federal income tax that the prohibition of alcohol became a fiscal possibility.  That’s quite a one-two punch: now you can tax us more, and, because of the money from those taxes, you can also take away our booze!  It’s surprising that there wasn’t a second Whiskey Rebellion.

One of the effects of Prohibition was to transform into criminals broad swaths of the American public, i.e. those reasonable souls who enjoyed a drink or two from time to time.  Much of this wide-spread but low-level criminality was engaged in with a good dose of wry humor, inspiring cocktails like the Three Mile Limit, which was named for the distance of international waters (later twelve miles) to which cruise boats would steam for no other purpose than allowing passengers to legally pop the corks and let the booze flow.  A similar Prohibition-era creation was the Scofflaw Cocktail.  The word “scofflaw” was itself a creation of the Prohibition era.  The word was the result of a national contest by Anti-Saloon League member Delcevare King, who offered $200 for the best neologism pejoratively expressing the idea of lawless drinker, menace, scoffer, bad citizen, or whatnot, with the biting power of  ‘scab’ or ‘slacker’.

Needless to say, with its goal of trying to make drinking less appealing, the contest and Mr. King himself quickly became the source of a great deal of mockery.  In fact, according to the 1927 book Barflies & Cocktails by Harry McElhone, it took less than two weeks for a barman in Paris to appropriate the newly-minted “scofflaw” and apply it to a drink.

Scofflaw Cocktail

2 oz. rye whiskey

1 oz. dry vermouth

½ oz. grenadine

¼ oz. fresh lemon juice

2 dashes orange bitters

Combine in an iced cocktail shaker; shake well and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

In SAT-speak, bootlegger is to scofflaw as pimp is to john, but luckily the vice of drink is now legally-indulged in, and while we can still lampoon the pieties of Mr. King and his Drys, “scofflaw” is a damn good word as well as a cocktail worth trying.(pity, that)

Drink up,


1 Response to "Frontier Mixology: Vol. 8, They Fought The Law And The Law Didn’t Win"

[…] has been illegal since the ratification of the 18th amendment in 1919.  Still, there are some scofflaws about who continue to flaunt the law by procuring potables and mixing them in wicked ways.  Among […]

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