by Alexandra Rasic
Every Saturday night since the Safer at Home Order started in Los Angeles, my husband and I have joined my best friend in Seattle and another friend here in LA for virtual Happy Hour. We’re not alone. Many people are meeting old and new friends online for a drink to celebrate the completion of yet another week in quarantine. Happy Hour, as we know it today, has its origins in the era of Prohibition, meeting at speakeasies or in the privacy of a friend’s home for a forbidden drink (or two!) before dinner. We’ve explored this 13-year ban on alcohol consumption in the US quite a bit at the Homestead, as 2020 marked the 100th anniversary of the start of Prohibition. With cocktail in hand, you can explore the fruits of our labor online by visiting Drying Up: Living With Prohibition in Los Angeles to see amazing images from our collection, follow a timeline of events, and more.
The last meal my family and I enjoyed eating casually in a restaurant before our world changed was at The Cellar in Fullerton. And boy did we go out in style celebrating a special birthday! A trip to The Cellar is a treat to say the least. Located in the basement of the historic Villa del Sol in Fullerton, the restaurant was designed by the artistic craftsmen behind Disneyland’s iconic attraction, Pirates of the Caribbean. Dimly lit, cozy, and romantic (my kids don’t like that descriptor…), it’s truly an experience to dine there and easy to see why it has been in business since 1969.
Like many restaurants, The Cellar has pivoted its operations to focus on take out—cocktails and all! So thinking about this new series on our blog, and one of the things that the restaurant is extremely well known for, we reached out to Rich Ohtsuka, Director of Operations for The Cellar Restaurant and their sister restaurant, Hidalgo’s Cocina & Cócteles. Rich has been in the Alcohol Beverage industry for well over a decade. Having started numerous craft cocktail bar programs across Los Angeles and Orange County, and placing as winner and finalist in multiple regional, national, and global cocktail competitions, Rich has garnered a wealth of knowledge within the industry and is driven by a strong passion and integrity for the art of mixing drinks.
We asked Rich to share a favorite Prohibition-era drink that is also available for purchase from the restaurant. He couldn’t wait to tell us about The Scofflaw. Take it away, Rich:
My favorite cocktail from the Prohibition era is undoubtedly The Scofflaw.
The ‘lore’ of cocktail origins are often full of fun and engaging stories that many upon many enjoy hearing. I often filter the stories that are far-fetched or seem illogical, but this drink and its story personally resonate with me on multiple levels, and from my first learning of it, I was immediately a fan. Let me explain:
The year was 1924. We all know that Prohibition in America was in full effect. We also know that not everyone was in favor of this law, both in America and abroad. In fact, many if not most of the foremost practitioners of the American cocktail craft had already fled to London or Paris so that they could continue to exercise their trades by this time.
Rye whiskey was still in favor, but bourbon was beginning to take a foothold over the market. Also, interestingly this cocktail combines both American (Rye) whiskey and dry vermouth, which by this time in history was highly uncommon, and much out of favor.
While intrinsically tied to Prohibition, this cocktail wasn’t created in America. It was actually a creation from Harry’s New York Bar in Paris, an American style bar that harbored some of the most prominent refugee bartenders that had fled from America.
In January of 1924, the word “scofflaw” (a term defining a law-less person who was generally opposed to Prohibition) became commonplace and utilized by law enforcement as meant to be a derogatory term. However, the term was actually embraced by those who actively “scoffed at the law” and only solidified the positive history of the cocktail.
Within weeks of the term “scofflaw” being coined, the namesake cocktail had been born and began its legacy as a classic cocktail. Using ingredients that at the time were beginning to fall out of vogue, the simple combination of rye whiskey, dry vermouth, pomegranate grenadine, and lemon juice, were cemented into history. The Scofflaw is one of a select few that helps define one of the most pivotal and influential cocktail eras of all time.
The Scofflaw is one of our currently featured cocktails, along with the Bee’s Knees (gin, lemon, honey), another Prohibition cocktail.
We’re currently offering limited pickup and delivery services Fridays through Sundays for both food and beverage, between 4 and 7 p.m. Advance orders are highly recommended in order to ensure product and time availability.
Want to make your own Scofflaw, or just watch a pro in action? Check out this video of Rich making The Scofflaw behind the bar of The Cellar. (You’ll wish you can grab that drink right off the bar.) Cheers!