Since a major character in my mystery, THE IMPERSONATOR, is a bootlegger, I’ve been boning up on all aspects of Prohibition. The single best book I’ve read is Daniel Okrent’s LAST CALL. I have found a goldmine of information in this book, much of which I have used in THE IMPERSONATOR and will continue to use in future Roaring Twenties books. So expect the next few weeks’ blogs to focus on fascinating facts about Prohibition–things you never knew and couldn’t have made up!
The Do-Not-Try-This-At-Home Wine Kit: Buy a Vino Sano Grape Brick (package above), a solid, dehydrated block of grape concentrate, stems, pulp, and skins, and read the accompanying label with detailed instructions about what you should NOT do with it–be sure NOT to add sugar and yeast or leave it in a dark place or “it might ferment and become wine.” And we certainly wouldn’t want that, would we, wink, wink. These grape bricks were advertised, quite legally, in newspapers and magazines (TIME magazine of August 6, 1928 had a large ad) and sold in various flavors: port, sherry, burgundy, etc. Gangster Jack “Legs” Diamond was quoted: “It sounds like a good racket to me.” Perceptive fellow, Legs.
Why was it legal? It contained no alcohol and home manufacture of wine, as long as it was not for re-sale, was not against the law. As the Vine-Glo ad says, “For home use only.”