How Prohibition Increased Crime
Prohibition was a failed attempt at bringing the United States under the law of conservative fundamentalism. The Temperance Movement sought to return people to a time of supposed ethical values. One’s where the evils of alcohol didn’t tear apart families and force people into being giant jerks.
Unfortunately, all it did was create an era of incredible amounts of crime and debauchery.
Organized criminals on the northern border of the United States were more than happy to smuggle booze in from Canada. Meanwhile, the southern border smuggled alcohol via the ocean or Mexico. They would, in turn, offload it to happy customers or send them to other syndicates that would move the booze throughout the US.
This made career criminals a whole lot of money as the appetite for drinking, and relative lack of available booze had spirits going for a premium.
Al Capone was one of the most famous gangsters to make a killing off prohibition. Bootlegging was one of his principal forms of income for his criminal empire. He would filter in spirits from Canada and distribute them to his other illicit gambling and prostitution operations. He would also funnel it to speakeasies.
Speaking of speakeasies, this was another criminal activity. Speakeasies were secretive bars that sold illicit booze to thirsty patrons. The noise level was to be kept to a minimum so that police patrolling the streets wouldn’t hear the people partying. So, people had to “speak easy” to avoid detection.
However, every single person in those speakeasies was committing a crime. They were all engaged in patronizing an illegal establishment serving illicit alcohol.
Then many people would bring cheap grain alcohol home if they were hosting a party. The term “bathtub gin” comes from this era when people would fill their bathtub full of grain alcohol, mix flavoring with it, and let it sit. For parties or resale, things like berries, fruit, spices, or juices were mixed.
During prohibition, it was so common for people to drink illicit booze that the whole era is still romanticized. Speakeasy style establishments have popped up in nearly every major whiskey city as a way for everyone to get a taste of the illicit lifestyle nearly everyone underwent during prohibition.
Overall, it was a rather failed attempt. People decided they would rather risk the penalty than give up their drinking lives. And, this made nearly everyone a criminal in the eyes of the law.
Greg Sinadinos started his spirits journey writing a whiskey periodical for Fine Tobacco NYC Magazine. He began answering review requests under a social media page he named “Whiskey Culture,” which quickly merged with Greg’s passion for connecting with others and his interest in history.
Today, Greg travels the country not just looking for great whiskey, but also exploring the history and individuals that the whiskey community is founded upon. He has authored “Whiskey History From Around The World” and is the host of “The Rickhouse” web series.