Find happy hours and drink specials anywhere you are

Ken Burns' Prohibition Delves into the Noble Experiment

by The Drink Nation on Oct 5, 2011 in Culture
Ken Burns' Prohibition Delves into the Noble Experiment

Over the past few evenings, PBS aired the 6-hour film Prohibition, directed by renowned documentarian Ken Burns with Lynn Novick. The three episodes are also available online at the PBS website. The airing was a big success for the not-for-profit station, bringing in an average of 3.9 million viewers, per ratings company Nielsen. People organized drinking parties around the show, preparing speakeasy-era cocktails to accompany the narrative.

In the first installment, “A Nation of Drunkards,” Burns relates that America in the late 19th Century had a serious drinking problem. On average, people drank seven times as much as today, close to 90 bottles of whiskey per year! During the Civil War, nearly one-third of the federal government’s revenue came from taxes on alcohol.

This dependence led to the Temperance movement, which began as a campaign to reduce alcohol intake, not to ban it. However, as radical movements are wont to do, things escalated, as different groups tried to outdo each other with their zeal, and in 1920, the 18th Amendment went into effect, making the sale or consumption of alcohol illegal.

As related by Burns in “A Nation of Scofflaws,” the Noble Experiment did not work out as planned. The Yale Club in New York City managed to squirrel away enough booze to keep its members satisfied for the whole duration of the ban, but most people were not so lucky. They still wanted their drinks, though, and to supply the masses, organized crime in the U.S. was born.

“A Nation of Hypocrites” details the collapse of the experiment. People ended up drinking even more than they had before the passage of the ban. Speakeasies were everywhere. Al Capone and the mafia ruled cities. The Federal Government began wiretapping citizens for the very first time. Winston Churchill called U.S. Prohibition “an affront to the whole history of mankind.”

There are plenty more interesting storylines, threaded together masterfully, including several collaborations between unlikely allies that eventually worked to bring about the amendment's repeal, on December 5, 1933. People celebrated – surprise, surprise – by partying like crazy.

Did you enjoy the show? What did you mix up to sip while you watched?
 
Thanks goes to Clara Jeffery, who live-tweeted all three episodes

 

Recent Articles
spacer

Feedback

How are we doing? Tell us what you like or don't like and how we can improve. We would love to hear your thoughts!

*Name:
*E-mail:
*Suggestions:
 
Behind the Bar: Tory Pratt of Pratt Standard

Behind the Bar: Tory Pratt of Pratt Standard

In this edition of Behind the Bar, we chatted with Tory Pratt, the founder of Pratt Standard....read more ›

by The Drink Nation Mar 7, 2019
D.C.'s Best Beer Bars

D.C.'s Best Beer Bars

Where's the best place to get your brew on? From beer gardens to bars, here are some of our favorite spots to knock back a few pints....read more ›

by Lanna Nguyen Mar 5, 2019
Acclaimed Director Ridley Scott Has Made Seven Short Films for Hennessy X.O.

Acclaimed Director Ridley Scott Has Made Seven Short Films for Hennessy X.O.

Ridley Scott has directed a four-minute short film for Hennessy X.O. visualizing the seven flavors of the high...read more ›

by The Drink Nation Mar 4, 2019
SPONSORED
Drink Nation Store Rectangle
Behind the Bar: Chris Morris, Master Distiller of Woodford Reserve

Behind the Bar: Chris Morris, Master Distiller of Woodford Reserve

On this edition of Behind the Bar, we had the honor to sit down with Chris Morris, the master distiller at Woo...read more ›

by The Drink Nation Feb 28, 2019
Neighborhood Bar Crawl: H Street

Neighborhood Bar Crawl: H Street

From Asian street food and ramen to cocktail dens, H Street has a mix of it all. Check out some of our top spots to visit when dining and drinking at ...read more ›

by Lanna Nguyen Feb 19, 2019
Haagen-Dazs is Making Booze-Infused Ice Cream

Haagen-Dazs is Making Booze-Infused Ice Cream

Step aside, after dinner drinks - Haagen-Dazs is releasing a line of spiked ice cream....read more ›

by The Drink Nation Feb 19, 2019
Take a Tequila Tour Through Mexico on Jose Cuervo's New 'Tequila Train'

Take a Tequila Tour Through Mexico on Jose Cuervo's New 'Tequila Train'

If you love tequila and traveling in style, you're in luck - Jose Cuervo has a new all-you-can-drink tequila t...read more ›

by The Drink Nation Feb 19, 2019
You Can Now Drink Wine Out of a 'Pringles Can' Tumbler

You Can Now Drink Wine Out of a 'Pringles Can' Tumbler

After a news story about a woman in Texas who was asked to leave Walmart for drinking wine out of an empty Pringles can went viral, one enterprising E...read more ›

by The Drink Nation Feb 5, 2019
Where to Grab a Drink After a Day of Ice Skating in D.C.

Where to Grab a Drink After a Day of Ice Skating in D.C.

Here are our top picks for where to warm up after getting your skate on....read more ›

by Lanna Nguyen Feb 5, 2019
Detox With These Low-Alcohol Cocktails in D.C.

Detox With These Low-Alcohol Cocktails in D.C.

Lots of drinkers do dry months, but if you can't commit to doing a completely alcohol-free month, here are some great options for lower-alcohol conten...read more ›

by Lanna Nguyen Jan 22, 2019
SPONSORED
View all Articles

Sign up to get weekly drinking news, bar reviews, events and more sent directly to your inbox!

Close