Dinner & A Book - Culinary Travels - Prohibition Era drinks – Scofflaw Cocktail Cocktail
Marshall V. King
Wally Ruston doesn’t just serve drinks. He can spin tales as well as cocktail shakers.
The bar manager of Tapastrie, 103 W. Colfax, South Bend, has worked behind the bar of many of the area’s best restaurants. Ask him about Prohibition and you get a history lesson along with a taste. Ask him about the history of a cocktail and he can go on for a while as he’d make various versions.
Ruston is a gem, so good that he can both make a cocktail and talk easily at the same time — and do both quickly. That’s the passion coming through.
When producer Brenda Bowyer suggested talking to Ruston about a Prohibition era drink, he settled on the Scofflaw, a blend of 1.5 ounces of good rye whiskey, 1/2 ounce of grenadine (the liquer, not just the sweetened pomegranate juice, ½ ounce of fresh squeezed lemon juice and ½ ounce of dry vermouth. Shake over ice and serve in a coupe glass with a lemon twist. As he stretched the curly peel over the glass, you could see a fine spray of mist settle over the drink.
“It just makes a nice drink,” he said.
According to Ruston, the cocktail was from Harry’s Bar in Paris, an American bar making cocktails during Prohibition from 1920 to 1934. The name came from a newspaper contest in which two people suggested the word for those who flaunted the law.
The drink is fruity but balanced. It’s a holdover from another era.
America needed Prohibition, said Ruston. The public was drinking too much. There was no drinking age, no 3 a.m. last call. The movement and then the law curtailing drinking didn’t mean people stopped drinking. “Everybody was drinking like crazy,” Ruston said. Yet when Prohibition was repealed, it meant more order and good sense. Americans learned a lot about drinking, including how to go out as men and women together and enjoy a cocktail.
The first age of cocktails came after the Civil War. The second came during and after Prohibition. The third one is underway now, he said.
So raise a glass to craftsmanship. Raise a glass to Ruston and his stories. Enjoy what he and others produce that puts flavor in a glass. And as always, please drink responsibly.