Sunday, April 03, 2011


This is a slightly old article, so you might have already run across it but, in case you haven't, it relates to April 3, 1947, the first day cocktails were legally sold in Toronto bars after prohibition - 64 years ago today. I cut and paste the first few paragraphs and link to the entire article here.

On a spring evening nearly 60 years ago, a crush of 2,300 people filled Adelaide St. E., all piling into Club Norman to catch an act nobody had seen in 31 years.

It was a Thursday, April 3, 1947 and Toronto’s only proper nightclub had just had its grand opening the night before. The crowds had been pretty impressive then, too – what with everyone wanting to be entertained by celebrated emcee, Bob Russell -- “Star of Stage and Radio” – and the “sophisticated dance rhythms” of Wally Wicken and the Normen.

But the next night, the throngs were out to see the newest headliner – the cocktail.

She had arrived fashionably late – 20 years after the repeal of Ontario’s provincial prohibition – and, with such a grand, anticipated entrance, many followed her into the first seven Toronto bars deemed worthy of a licence to sell liquor by the glass since Ontario had gone dry in 1916.

Time Magazine reported that those 31 years had taken its toll on Ontarians’ ability to drink liquor in public. Not that they got rip-roaring drunk that night (as some would have feared). Quite the opposite, in fact. We were, apparently, “out of practice,” and averaged “only two drinks apiece” according to the bartenders present. We simply had “forgotten how it was done.”

The cocktail of the night? Rye highballs for 45¢ to $1.60 – prices which the Time reporter called “overproof” – especially for 1¼ ounces of liquor per drink.

Although the crowds came out, it seems it was hardly the raucous fest those who advocate strict and repressive liquor laws would have warned against. Every time the laws get a little looser – be it to include happy hour, extend the hours, lower the drinking age or allow point-of-purchase advertising – there are those who will worry that we are not grown up enough to handle our new responsibilities.

I think we proved them wrong that Thursday night, 60 years ago – and continue to do so.