the Cocktail issue

was sentenced to thirty days and a $25 fine. Delmonico’s restaurant was also busted the same year, and 20 gallons of wine, 75 bottles of “good liquor” (as opposed to “bad” liquor?), one case of whiskey and two dozen bottles of beer were found. Giddy patrons of establishments were comfortable navigating hidden passageways. It was all part of the wicked thrill of being naughty. Illegal bars were called speakeasies. Secret knocks, peepholes in doors and passwords provided entry. Prominent customers were recognized and readily accommodated. Authorities didn’t care that Antoine’s, the country’s oldest continuously operating family-owned restaurant established in 1840, had a seemingly unisex bathroom. But they did care that once inside, a door led to a secret bar named the Mystery Room. Gentlemen would saunter through the ladies room, then depart with coffee cups containing their favorite libation. It was unfortunate that Count Arnaud Cazenave, bon vivant and former liquor salesman, opened his eponymous restaurant in 1918, the year before the Volstead Act was passed. Arnaud’s dodge was also to serve liquor in coffee cups. Luncheon was interrupted by the feds “turning an

inspection into a raid when they discovered coffee cups on some tables which contained a liquid of an amber hue too pronounced to be tea, and not dark enough to be coffee,” according to The Times-Picayune on January 22, 1922.The federal agents discovered 16 bottles of assorted liquors, several bottles of Italian vermouth and two bottles of Champagne in a storeroom. The self-titled count used his mansion at the corner of Royal at Esplanade to hide bootleg and cases of wine. Operating several different establishments, he consistently ran afoul of the federal agents. Nevertheless, the law finally caught up with the count. He was imprisoned for his flagrant violations and the restaurant briefly padlocked. A convincing explanation of his spirited philosophy won over the jury of like- minded New Orleanians, and he was acquitted. The count turned his infamy into promotion for his restaurant. The Old Absinthe House fell victim to the Eighteenth Amendment’s dry agents and was padlocked for a year by an injunction of the U.S. Court in 1926. The handsome marble absinthe fountain and antebellum bar were removed and languished forgotten in a warehouse.They were finally returned to the Bourbon Street establishment. Maylie’s Restaurant had the temerity to serve wine during a banquet earlier that year and was subsequently raided. Equally audacious, Tujague’s waiters circulated throughout their establishment with bottles secreted in their aprons. Curtained booths at the Crescent City Steakhouse allowed sly additions to a cup of coffee. Galatoire’s on Bourbon Street took advantage of its second floor dining rooms in a well-mannered nod to discretion. Thinking ahead, a member of the Stratford Club custom built and stocked two huge new cellars with over 5,000 bottles of wine, taking advantage of a loophole that stated liquor purchased before the act could be legally consumed for personal use. Stockpiling alcoholic beverages became the norm. The Southern Yacht Club served their signature cocktail,The Pink Lady, under the personal use provision. The Holland House, now Ralph’s on the Park, was also known to provide a drink or two. Or more. Not to be left out, the Press Club was a popular watering hole for reporters after covering raids, legal proceedings and trials. It was a haven where they quoted federal agents saying the offending places were “alive” with “joy-riding” parties. Yet when it came time to announce the end of Prohibition, the local newspaper The Times-Picayune devoted only one column to the story. Certainly, few in the city had waited nearly 14 years for a drink. New Orleans greeted the news with a shrug.

[TOP] The Old Absinthe House [BOTTOM RIGHT] photo courtesy Arnaud’s Restaurant



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