The year 2020 marked a hundred years since the Volstead Act went into effect, launching the United States into 13 years of Prohibition. The law banned the production and sale of alcohol, with few exceptions (religious sacraments, medicine). With a century in Americans’ collective rearview mirror, let’s all admit that the so-called Noble Experiment was an absolute failure.
The teetotalers of the Temperance Movement who predicted a better society instead encountered crime, corruption and even more consumption of alcohol. Flip the proverbial bird to those dark days and misguided attempts to deprive us of a drink with these five Prohibition-inspired tours.
Kansas City Prohibition Craft Cocktail Tour ($80 per person)
After Congress passed the National Prohibition Act, Kansas City quickly became regarded as one of the wettest cities in the country and took on the nickname Paris of the Plains. During this excursion, you’ll ride around in a comfy tour bus while examining the city’s history during that era, including the “working women” of the streets and the Mafia families who controlled the government. You’ll visit former speakeasies, brothels and take a private tour of a modern distillery, while sampling some of the best cocktails currently being shaken and stirred in KC.
After gleaning info on the City of Angels’ early distillers and what became of them during Prohibition, take to the streets for a 10-mile bike ride that departs from Hotel Indigo. Your guide will take you to a century-old speakeasy where you’ll learn about the underground distilleries that were ubiquitous in each L.A. neighborhood. See the LAPD Internal Affairs office and learn how officials there were able to take down corrupt police officers and politicians. And because this is the entertainment capital of the world, the Roaring Twenties come to life as you ride past United Artists and the Million Dollar theaters in the historic theater district.
NYC Cocktail Tour ($417 for a private group up to 5 people)
When Prohibition was enacted, bars in New York City all shut down... Just kidding. The city’s nightlife was more lively than ever. On this tour of Manhattan’s most storied bars and sites of former speakeasies, you’ll have a glimpse into precisely how boozy an era Prohibition was. Stories of corrupt police chiefs and East Coast gangsters are entwined with those of specific cocktails and the bars where they were invented. The tour starts in Midtown, at some of the oldest bars still operating, and winds up in the Flatiron district, where one of history’s most famous bartenders, Jerry Thomas, plied his trade.
Jonathan Knotek, the founder and co-owner of Chicago Prohibition Tours, was inspired to create a tour that would examine the Windy City’s most notorious era through the lens of an average person just trying to get a drink during that time. The tour shares info on what you could order and how you could obtain your hooch of choice, as well as tips for avoiding imprisonment (or death) in the process. It also covers social aspects and how attitudes and moralities evolved throughout the 13 years that Prohibition was in effect. The group visits four former working speakeasies that still operate today.Continue to 5 of 5 below.
Author and historian Garrett Peck is interested in the origins of Prohibition and why it failed. His tour starts at the Temperance Fountain, an ode to abstinence, and continues to Calvary Baptist Church, where the Anti-Saloon League held its national convention in 1885. Groups visit the former house of Woodrow Wilson, who was president when Prohibition began and vetoed the Volstead Act because he believed beer and wine should still be legal. (Congress overrode his veto the very next day.). His dwelling also houses a wine cellar whose clandestine contents were most likely supplied by the French embassy.