Outlawing the classic cocktail

The Baltimore contingent of InsideCatholic enjoys patronizing a local bar that serves classic Prohibition Era cocktails. I had my first Gin Fizz there a few months back, and it was a revelation; I’d never tasted anything quite like it. If our government protectors have anything to do with it, I may not again.

In early February, the New York City Department of Health cited the high-end Pegu Club for using raw eggs in their popular cocktails. While the initial citation — serious enough to require a court appearance — has since been reduced, the problem remains.

“I was really shocked that the Department of Health was coming down on a bar like that,” said Joseph Schwartz, an owner of Little Branch, a speak-easy style lounge in Greenwich Village that puts raw eggs into pisco sours, fizzes and flips. “Imagine telling Parisians that they can’t have raw egg in their food? There would be rioting in the streets”….

“If they make it illegal to serve egg-white drinks, that would be Hurricane Katrina for us,” said one of several bartenders and club owners who said they had been challenged by inspectors but declined to be quoted on the record, for fear of antagonizing health officials.

What makes the situation doubly frustrating is that despite the health department’s hysteria, there’s no record of anyone anywhere ever getting sick from the egg in a cocktail. In other words, city bureaucrats are sounding the alarm — and threatening business owners with criminal prosecution — over a harmless beverage ingredient.

Unfortunately, the paranoia isn’t confined to New York. Here’s Reason‘s Katherine Mangu-Ward speaking to Virginia bartender Todd Thatcher about the challenges he faces from state officials:


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Brian Saint-Paul was the editor and publisher of Crisis Magazine. He has a BA in Philosophy and an MA in Religious Studies from the Catholic University of America, in Washington. D.C. In addition to various positions in journalism and publishing, he has served as the associate director of a health research institute, a missionary, and a private school teacher. He lives with his wife in a historic Baltimore neighborhood, where he obsesses over Late Antiquity.

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