by Pink Lady
As the story goes, the Scoff Law cocktail was invented in 1924 at Harry’s New York Bar in Paris. The word, however, was invented in Boston the previous fall. Here’s story of how one beget the other.**
In October of 1923 prominent Anti-Saloon League member Delcevare King conceived of an peculiar sort of marketing campaign designed to bring shame and scorn upon flouters of the 18th Amendment and Volstead Act which prohibited the “manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors.” King developed a contest to offer $200 (roughly equivalent to $2,400 today) to the person who could invent a word “which best expresses the idea of lawless drinker, menace, scoffer, bad citizen, or whatnot, with the biting power of ‘scab’ or ‘slacker’.” By the January 1, 1924 deadline 25,000 entries poured in from all over the country (with a few international ones, too), suggesting gems like scut, boozlag, alcolog, hooch-sniper, rum-rough, and law-loose-liquor-lover, according to a Boston Herald article on the topic.
Each word was judged against the following criteria: it should be no more than two syllables, begin with an “s” (to make it “sting”), refer to illegal drinkers only (not drinkers at large) and emphasize the law-breaking rather than liquor as the problem, and be linked to the following statement by President Harding: “Lawless drinking is a menace to the republic itself.” On January 16, 1924 the Boston Herald announced the winning word, the “scofflaw”, proposed by two separate contestants, Henry Dale Irving of Andover and Kate L. Butler of Dorchester. (They split the prize money.)
The entire premise of King’s contest was subject to widespread mockery in the media and beyond and using the word in vain seemed an almost instantaneous reaction to King’s earnest endeavor. The New York Times predicted “scofflaws” would be impervious to the word: “said sinners will not be startled nor abashed at being told that they do what they have never tried to conceal.”
Right. Said sinners relished the term and raised a glass. As Chicago Tribune reported on January 27, “Jack, the genial manager of Harry’s Bar in Paris, yesterday invented the Scoff-Law Cocktail, and it has already become exceedingly popular among American Prohibition dodgers.”
We’ll drink to that.
Harry’s Bar in Paris version
1 oz. Canadian whiskey (originally recommended because it contained at least SOME rye)
1 oz. dry vermouth
.25 oz. lemon juice
A hearty dash grenadine & bitters.
Shake with ice & strain into a cocktail glass.