Did you know that 100 years ago, alcohol was illegal in the United States?
The Prohibition Era refers to the period of time when the production and distribution of alcoholic beverages was illegal in the entire country. The Eighteenth Amendment to the Constitution was passed in 1920 after a movement by Protestants and others who saw alcohol as a root cause of many societal problems. The result of Prohibition was government agencies to root out alcohol production and sales, vast underground networks of alcohol production and consumption, and citizens searching for alternatives for their favorite drinks.
One such alternative is the mocktail, or a cocktail beverage with no alcohol. Dorrance Publishing was 10 years old when we published a book of mocktail recipes in 1930 – Prohibition Punches by Roxana B. Doran was a book of recipes for non-alcoholic drinks for various occasions.
The author of the book, Roxana Doran, was a member of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union, an organization that was pro-alcohol prohibition. She was the wife of James M. Doran, who was Administer of Industrial Alcohol for the government at the time of the book’s publication. The publication of Prohibition Punches was part of this DC power couple’s plan to make prohibition cool.
The recipes themselves receieved mixed response. Some enjoyed the mainly fruit juice cocktails, some were not buying the hype. A recent article about mocktails for Atlas Obscura titled “The Prohibition-Era Effort to Make Mocktails Fun“ discusses the response:
“With every positive review—“It is written so colorfully and intelligently it would tempt even cocktail crusaders to mend their ways,” raved the Pittsburgh Press—mild criticisms arose. “Mrs. Doran has padded out this slender volume on a rather restricted subject,” sniped “The Literary Lantern,” a syndicated Southern newspaper column. “When you boil out the duplicates and come down to basic recipes there are not so many different tricks in the mixing of these non-alcoholic drinks.” Other magazines had humorous takes, notably Vanity Fair writer Corey Ford’s December 1930 tribute, “Have One on Me, Mrs. Doran,” which noted that the author’s elaborate recipes could all do with one simple extra ingredient: liquor.”
The book is not just a collection of recipes, however. It is chaptered, and each chapter includes descriptive introductions that paint an alcohol-free life as an elegant and peaceful one. The recipes of Prohibition Punches are fruit juice cocktails for every occasion, even some for children. Various friends of the Dorans and the temperance movement submitted recipes for the book, and leave comments for readers.
Prohibition Punches is a time capsule of a time when alcohol was illegal in the United States – a concept virtually unthinkable now. Physical copies of the book, now almost 100 years old, can be found on Amazon and eBay. The entire book has been digitized and archived. Skim through the 104 pages yourself, and see what was on the minds of those Americans who were in support of the Eighteenth Amendment.