On December 5, 2012, hundreds of Washingtonians crowded the dark paneled walls of the best whisky bar in America, Jack Rose Dining Saloon, for a celebration of sensibility. Rare, these days are words like “sense” and “obvious” in the seat of American government these days (have you heard of the “cliff”?) but on December 5, 1933 the United States Constitution was amended with the Twenty-first Amendment also known as the Repeal of Prohibition. The repeal was of the Eighteenth Amendment which was passed due to the conventional wisdom, and considerable political and religious pressure, to ban the manufacture of whiskey in the U.S. in order to reduce crime, improve the health and mental wellness of the American citizenry, and reduce healthcare costs (that sounds familiar). What the 18th Amendment did was the exact opposite of this and to the dismay of Senator Rockefeller and all the groups who rejoiced over their victory they could not wait to “un-do” the bad law that they had created and stop the bleeding.
So, it is only fitting that such a grand bar could throw a Prohibition party in the year 2012. Why? Because I think we need to reflect on what we have, as citizens, let government do in our lives. As altruistic as man can be, often, he/she does the wrong thing. And in the case of Government, it usually is not corrected without a revolution or take-over. Life is hard enough, to take away the few things that unites and provides enjoyment for a large segment of a society is detrimental. So raise a glass my fellow Americans and never forget!
Now, that I’m off of my pedestal, I’d like to talk about this Saloon called Jack Rose. At the heart of this bar is Bill Thomas, proprietor of Jack Rose Dining Saloon as well as Bourbon in Georgetown. On this night, Bill really wanted a celebration of this date and a true theme running through the night to give it a Prohibition era feel. It started with a wonderfully cooked three course meal that I wisely took my server’s advise on and chose the Prime Rib. I had a three course meal for $20 USD. You can see the picture, the Prime Rib was ridiculously huge! I told Bill, you can’t be making money on this! He smiled and said, I really don’t care. He wanted people to enjoy this day, it wasn’t just another excuse to open the doors and pour drink specials. Bill loves whiskey and enjoys the company of those who do also. So, when you can have an intimate party in a bar that has a ridiculous amount of whisk(e)y in it. Why Not!
As usual,the meal was wonderful, the appetizers unique and special. But what came afterwards really trumped it all.
When Bill opened the Dining Saloon there was a basement area that in most people’s minds would be a great cellar/storage area. What Bill saw was an intimate setting where whisky aficionados could sit in relative quiet away from the main crowd and truly enjoy some spirits. I joined Bill downstairs and the bar truly carries the “speakeasy” feel. The door to the bar is recessed into the wall, and slides. There is a back door, no sign on the outside, with a buzzer. You get the picture. In this area, one can assembly 40 people and it feels like you’re in a New York City bar on Saturday night, only with a Washington vibe, not a New York one. Tonight, Bill was personally pouring a few unique scotch and bourbon offerings.
The room was alive and the setting was perfect. Bill had brought in some Pre-Prohibition era American whiskey that he has in his personal collection and displayed it in a case (I’ve placed a few in this post). For entertainment, two lovely young ladies provided us with a 1920’s flapper themed performance that even silenced, even mesmerized the contingent and even produced a few ghasts from the women folk. It was at that moment I knew that nowhere else in this city was anyone having this good of a time. My iPhone doesn’t do justice in the picture of one of the ladies, but trust me, it was a show.
To finish off a near perfect night, Bill pulled out a pre-prohibition bottle of American whiskey. Though the label and history had worn off, Bill knew it was distilled somewhere between 1915 to 1930. The magic was not in its nosing or tasting, but in just knowing that you were able to imbibe in a whiskey that old and surrounded by so much controversy. I really do thank Jack Rose for bringing attention to a historic date and doing its best to help reconnect our generations with those back then. I cannot wait til next year!