The Prohibition Hangover: Alcohol in America from Demon Rum to Cult Cabernet

The Prohibition Hangover: Alcohol in America from Demon Rum to Cult Cabernet

The Prohibition Hangover: Alcohol in America from Demon Rum to Cult Cabernet

The Prohibition Hangover: Alcohol in America from Demon Rum to Cult Cabernet


Spirits are all the rage today. Two-thirds of Americans drink, whether they enjoy higher priced call brands or more moderately priced favorites. From fine dining and piano bars to baseball games and backyard barbeques, drinks are part of every social occasion.

In The Prohibition Hangover, Garrett Peck explores the often-contradictory social history of alcohol in America, from the end of Prohibition in 1933 to the twenty-first century. For Peck, Repeal left American society wondering whether alcohol was a consumer product or a controlled substance, an accepted staple of social culture or a danger to society. Today the legal drinking age, binge drinking, the neoprohibitionist movement led by Mothers Against Drunk Driving, the 2005 Supreme Court decision in Granholm v. Heald that rejected discriminatory curbs on wine sales, the health benefits of red wine, advertising, and other issues remain highly contested.

Based on primary research, including hundreds of interviews with those on all sides- clergy, bar and restaurant owners, public health advocates, citizen crusaders, industry representatives, and more- as well as secondary sources, The Prohibition Hangover provides a panoramic assessment of alcohol in American culture. Traveling through the California wine country, the beer barrel backroads of New England and Pennsylvania, and the blue hills of Kentucky's bourbon trail, Peck places the concerns surrounding alcohol use within the broader context of American history, religious traditions, and governance.

Society is constantly evolving, and so are our drinking habits. Cutting through the froth and discarding the maraschino cherries, The Prohibition Hangover examines the modern American temperament toward drink amid the $189-billion-dollar-a-year industry that defines itself by the production, distribution, marketing, and consumption of alcoholic beverages.


It’s a cold April afternoon, one of those damp North Atlantic days whose cold drizzle and gusts makes carrying an umbrella irrelevant. Your only defense is a raincoat, but even then the wind whips right through it, chilling you to the bone. Not an Arctic cold, but a wet chill. You expect this on Cape Cod or in Seattle, but not in our nation’s capital—certainly not in spring. It’s cold enough to keep the cherry blossoms around for a few more days in their pink-and-white glory. Cold enough that you wonder, who would be crazy enough to go to a baseball game, when you can watch it on TV? Cold enough that I wish I had brought a winter hat and a hip flask. Indeed, it’s too cold for an ice-cold beer, but beer is what we drink, because this is baseball, baby.

The Washington Nationals are playing the first of a three-game series against the Florida Marlins at the brand-new Nationals Park. After more than three decades, Washington, D.C., finally has a baseball team, one that played its first seasons at decrepit RFK Stadium while the new ballpark went up. So far, no corporation has yet bought the naming rights, but if it stays Nationals Park, that would be fine by me. The Washington Post playfully suggested it be named Dubya C. Field (President George W. Bush threw out the first pitch at the season opener). Ten days after my visit, Pope Benedict XVI delivered a mass at the ballpark on his first papal visit to the United States.

Vendors in bright yellow shirts walk through the stands, hawking, “Cold beer! Ice-cold beer! Cold beer!” They charge $7.50 for a twelve-ounce plastic bottle of Miller Lite or Budweiser. There are few takers until a young man comes through with a giant thermos strapped to his back. It reads “Hot Chocolate.” He does a killer business. In the concession concourse, the longest lines are not at the beer stands or Ben’s Chili Bowl but rather at the Mayorga Coffee stand.

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