In celebration of LSUP’s 80th anniversary the staff selected 80 of our most memorable titles. Adding to our “Around the Press in 80 Books” blog series, Senior Designer Michelle Neustrom writes about Shaking Up Prohibition in New Orleans: Authentic Vintage Cocktails from A to Z.
Imagine going through your long-deceased grandmother’s artwork and coming across a paper-clipped manuscript from the late 1920s titled “Letters from a Shaker.” Inside are twenty-six pen-and-ink illustrations—one for each letter of the alphabet—and accompanying each letter is a typed poem and one or more cocktail recipes. The vivid drawings depict drunkenness and debauchery and . . . wait . . . your grandmother is the illustrator!
Well, that is exactly what happened to Gay Leonhardt. In 1978, Gay inherited loads of her late grandmother’s original artwork and papers. She kept them in storage for thirty years before moving them to her basement about a decade ago. Not long after, her basement flooded and she frantically removed all the artwork from the boxes. That’s when she discovered this manuscript written by Olive Leonhardt and Hilda Phelps Hammond.
After doing some digging, Gay discovered that both Olive and Hilda attended Newcomb College, worked together in the New Orleans suffrage movement, and moved in the same social circles. They were both considered independent, outspoken, and well-read. Olive was an established artist, and Hilda was a natural leader with a master’s degree in English. At some point in late 1929 or early 1930, they collaborated to create this humorous look at Prohibition. The poems and illustrations poke fun at drunkenness, prohibition, doctors prescribing alcohol, drinking games, speakeasies, hangovers, homemade brew, and social norms. The recipes they included require quite an extensive list of alcoholic ingredients. It’s certainly ironic this collection was written during Prohibition, but it must not have been too challenging to obtain liquor in the Big Easy.
Olive and Hilda most likely never intended to publish this work; it was just something fun to do, a creative outlet. One can only hope that they shared the drawings at a party with close friends and made some of the forbidden cocktail recipes. Now, eighty-five years later, Shaking Up Prohibition in New Orleans has been published by LSU Press for all to read and enjoy. So grab a copy and shake up your favorite speakeasy-era cocktail. Cheers Olive and Hilda!
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