Several weeks ago, I read a newspaper article about a prohibition-era hidden tunnel underneath a pecan shop in Decatur, AL. I knew as soon as I read the article I knew I had to investigate. I trekked out the Tennessee Valley Pecan Co. and popped into the shop.The shop itself it well worth the trip, even without the secret booze den. The pecan company sells a large variety of the most delicious pecans, coffee, and Piper & Leaf teas. The shop is adorable with many squirrel themed products. I also learned that there are numerous types of pecans. Who knew?! I ordered a coffee and some dark chocolate pecans and asked to see the secret tunnel. Owner David Armistead was very obliging and explained to me how they found the tunnel, a bit of its history and what was down there. He showed me to the tunnel which they left exposed with a piece of plexiglass over the top. Through the hole you can see the scary rickety ladder, whiskey crates, and remaining prohibition debris. David kindly invited me to come back on a different day to go down into the tunnel. I’ll admit it was a pretty scary hole to go into. I was glad I had been working out because if I was any wider I would not have fit in. It was super thrilling and a bit scary. We found old beer bottles, whiskey boxes and even pecan shells.It was also an adventure to get myself, camera, and tripod down this very steep ladder.
It was December 5th, 1933 when the twenty-first amendment was ratified, a joyous day that ended the oppression of alcoholic freedom. For 13, almost 14, long years the United States prohibited the production, transport and sale of intoxicating liquors for any use other than medical or religious. I’m guessing there were no Friday night keggers at the frat houses. This was an era when it was good to be Catholic, so you could at least get the occasional sip of wine; or have a medical condition that required booze, though I can’t imagine a doctor prescribing tequila shots for any ailment.
Prohibition led to an overextension of the police and law enforcement agencies, an increase in organized crime and a nation that wept for the occasion pint of brew or well-crafted cocktail.
I actually had a great-grandfather who spent a number of years in prison in northern Maine for bootlegging during prohibition. I’m not sure of the exact terms of his crime or incarceration, but some stones are best left unturned.
But thankfully the United States decided to let us once again legally enjoy alcoholic beverages, well those of us that are over 21. Take that youth of America, sometimes it pays to be old.
Several weeks ago I had the pleasure of photographing a Huntsville, Alabama bar and lounge, aptly named, Amendment XXI, for Huntsville’s Event Magazine. I had so many photos, (classic photographer, taking exponentially more than needed) that we decided to feature Amendment XXI in a blog post. For more photos and recipes pick up your free copy of Event Magazine today or you can view it online. My article is on page 44.
Being at the heart of downtown Huntsville, Amendment XXI is a fun place to hangout and people watch. It is also a great place for delicious, handcrafted cocktails. The bar is a big supporter of all things local, so when they can, they use locally produced ingredients. They also change their drink menus with the seasons, so I came just in time to photograph and sample their spring collection. If you are in North Alabama go immediately and order a Tears of Joy, you will be so happy you did.
Amendment XXI was also kind enough to give me two of their signature recipes to share. The first one is the Spring 123 and is described to be so fresh it is like a salad in a martini glass. Perfect for a hot and humid Alabama summer, which is currently peaking its ugly, sweaty head around the corner.
Muddle basil, cucumber and ginger together in a glass. Add vodka, lime juice and simple syrup, and mix in a cocktail shaker. Strain cocktail into a martini glass and garnish with cucumber slices.
The second recipe is a the Northside 75, a drink inspired from the classic French 75. I LOVE cocktails that come in a flute. They make me feel very romantic and celebratory, so the Northside 75 was my kind of drink. Plus it is lavender flavored, which is a bonus.