Charles Steadman of Jack's Grumpy Grouper on Prohibition, the Silver Age of Bartending, and U.S. Bartenders' Guild
Whether it's tech, education, journalism, or the restaurant industry, it's actually a good thing to be considered a geek.
When it comes to mixology, Jack's Grumpy Grouper managing partner Charles Steadman is just about as nerdy as they come (in a good way, obviously). He loves what he does and everything about the industry.
We chatted with the excitable restaurateur and tender of bar about the history of cocktails in the 20th century.
Clean Plate Charlie: When it comes to cocktails in the United States, the first thing that comes to mind is Prohibition. How did that affect the industry?
Steadman: At the time, everyone was drinking between 12 to 19 drinks a day. Leaders like the Flaglers, the Roosevelts, and the Vanderbilts could really handle their drink. Alcohol was still readily accessible with moonshine and bathtub gins, but a lot of the good stuff was being shipped from overseas. Prohibition had such a dynamic impact on not just drinking market, but the culture at the time. It was a really scandalous time with the whole 'Great Gatsby' era and bootleggers. The wealthy still had their classic cocktails through imported gin and scotch and whatever else. But, the poor were drinking dangerous bathtub gins and moonshines. Nothing was regulated; it was all make it, sell it, make it, sell it, and hopefully no one went blind or died as a result. It's like drinking really cheap vodka these days, you'll feel it the next day because of the impurities -- back then it wasn't even that good. People died.