Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Christine Sismondo

Michelle Rafferty of The Oxford Comment met with Christine Sismondo at The Ginger Man in New York City to discuss the latter's new book, America Walks into a Bar: A Spirited History of Taverns and Saloons, Speakeasies and Grog Shops. From the transcript of their conversation:

Christine: American bars are much more interesting for the large part than Canadian bars and they have better selection of drinks because of where I live in Ontario. We are first of all, the equivalent of a control state, like Pennsylvania where it’s very hard to get interesting liquor in.

Michelle: What does that mean, a “control state”?

Christine: In the liquor legislation there are some control states in the United States, which are states where the sale and importing and distribution of alcohol is controlled by the actual state. New York State is not one of them. That’s one of the reasons why New York is relatively cheap, fairly vibrant, has a lot different selection. Pennsylvania on the other hand, it’s a much tighter control over the type of liquor. And Ontario, where I live, is absolutely atrocious, and it’s just starting to get a little bit better. For example, we didn’t have legal cocktails in bars until 1947. And I can remember when I was a kid you could never just walk through a store to buy your liquor or your beer. You had to go up to a counter, just like you were getting a prescription at a drug store, and put in your order, and then somebody would go to the back and get you your little mickey of gin and sell it to you. And you had to have ID, and some places they even had a passport kind of thing so they could look at how much you bought over the year.

Michelle: Really?

Christine: Yeah.

Michelle: So if someone was buying a lot what would happen?

Christine: Well, in Ontario until sometime in the 1980s they had, and this is terrible, what they called the “Indian List.” And the “Indian List” applied...[read on]
The Page 99 Test: America Walks into a Bar.

Writers Read: Christine Sismondo.

--Marshal Zeringue