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The excitement in the air is tangible. As all the smart kids and big drinkers know, Friday, December 5, is the 75th anniversary of the repeal of the 18th Amendment, which banned the sale of alcohol in the United States. There are any number of options out there for celebrating: the New York Daily News ran an excellent list on Thursday. For myself, I'm planning on grabbing a seat at Death & Company in the East Village and having one of the city's best up-and-coming bartenders, Joaquin Simo, make me some drinks (I know what a great mixologist Joaquin is, because he's working on F&W's awesome upcoming Cocktails 2009). At Death & Co, drink specials will include a choice of über-classic cocktails the Sazarac, the Manhattan and the Old-Fashioned, made with such rare whiskeys as George T. Stagg and Thomas Handy. Be warned, the cocktails are $18, but I feel like I'll be lucky to even taste them—apparently, it's hard to keep the Antique Collection in stock at Death & Co., because the staff buys them all for themselves.
The party I really wish I’d been part of, though, celebrated last year's Repeal Day. Details are fuzzy, but according to legend, 40 bartenders started their day with "breakfast" at McSorley's Old Ale House (ie, pints of both light and dark beer). Then a bus stocked with Gin Punch took them to the grave of Jerry Thomas (aka, the Father of the Cocktail, who was reintroduced to most of the general public in an outstanding book by David Wondrich, Imbibe!) in Woodlawn Cemetery in Queens. There they drank Tombstones (whiskey with rich simple syrup and bitters). Then they got back on the bus and hit every borough with a cocktail named after it, where they drank appropriately (the Bronx is a mix of gin, vermouth and OJ—basically an oj martini; the Brooklyn combines bourbon, vermouth, bitters and marascino; then of course, there's the Manhattan). The night ended, with what was left of the crew, at the speakeasy Bill's Gay 90s, where some of the party may or may not have been cut off from the open bar. I can't think of a better way to end Repeal Day.