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Ken Burns’ Spirited History

After watching all six hours of Ken Burns’ fascinating new PBS documentary, Prohibition, we were left with one major question: What does the award-winning filmmaker like to drink?

Well, lately, the bubbly Italian wine prosecco “has been my drink of choice,” he told us a couple days ago. While he was once an ardent American-whiskey fan, enjoying Jack Daniel’s, Jim Beam and Maker’s Mark, among others, the 18 hours a day he spends making movies have demanded a switch in consumption. “I needed to add a few more hours to the day,” he joked.


It’s hard to blame him. These days, he’s working on seven projects in various states of production, including films on the Dust Bowl, the Vietnam War and Jackie Robinson, which will all be shown on PBS over the next seven years. “It’s like having all these kids in addition to my real ones,” he says—and for the record, he has an 11-month-old at home as well.

While Prohibition captures the current zeitgeist for classic cocktails and bootleggers (e.g. HBO’s hit Boardwalk Empire), Burns says that the idea didn’t come to him on a barstool in a faux-speakeasy. It was Daniel Okrent, author of Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition, who came to Burns and his co-director Lynn Novick with the intriguing series idea. “I’ve spent a lot of time passing through the 1920s,” Burns says. But America’s noble experiment gave him a unique perspective on the period, since it “engages politics, engages sex, engages crime…so many dimensions are covered.”

Naturally, Burns advises his audience “to open a nice cold one to drink” while they watch part one, airing this Sunday night. He’ll of course be having a celebratory glass of well-deserved prosecco. “We’ve got a bottle waiting,” he says.

(Photo courtesy of the New York Daily News)

Series & Type: History People

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