Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Event at the Howard Theatre celebrates pre-Prohibition black bartenders

This is awesome: as part of the celebration of World Cocktail Week (May 6-13) a group of mixologists and enthusiasts have organized an event to honor some folks you probably haven't heard much about: black bartenders from pre-Prohibition days.

The event, organized by some a group of writers, historians and local bartenders, talks about the contribution of those African American booze pioneers, including some who worked in DC. In fact, there was a club in DC at the time called the Black Mixology Club which was mentioned in the local press.

The event, called DC Toasts, features a concert by the Chuck Brown Band, plus more about the historical bartenders. The founders were on the Kojo Nnamdi Show a few days ago too, and you can listen on their site (it starts at about 21 minutes) or read a transcript here. The show is pretty interesting and actually goes into the history of bartenders in the US, who were well-respected folks before prohibition. There wasn't much info on black bartenders as the local newspapers didn't write about them very much, but the research uncovered some interesting things, like how drinks were served in coffee cups at Bohemian Caverns, presumably so if the place was raided it looked like you were drinking coffee or tea. The guests on the show also talked about contemporary bartending and how it's returning to that previous place, as more of a respected career rather than a job you do for awhile before doing something else.

You can learn more about the event in the Washingtonian, and get tickets and more info here. The event is Friday, May 10 at the Howard Theatre at 620 T Street NW.

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