From 1916 to 1927 buying a drink in Toronto could have got you in trouble with the law. Why? Prohibition!
Although there was a loophole in an exemption for doctors to prescribe their patients alcohol for certain illnesses (which, curiously enough, was especially high around Christmas), objections to the law were publicly voiced in demonstrations and outright violations were also pretty commonplace.
This sordid world of of the swingin’ 1920s, illegal business empires and gangsters inspired one of our most popular Escape Casa Loma games – and if you want to play, here’s your guide to the lingo you’ll need to become the new King of the Bootleggers:
Bootlegging: dating back to the American Civil War, this word came about as soldiers would bring beer back to their camps by hiding bottles in their boots. Used in a variety of contexts, ‘bootleg’ refers to the drink itself, ‘bootlegging’ is the process of production, with ‘bootleggers’ being the producers themselves like our game’s notorious gangster, Rocco Perri.
Moonshine: another name for illegally produced drink, typically high-proof liquor made at night – or literally by ‘moon shine’.
Speakeasies: originally early 19th century British slang for a ‘smuggler’s house’ – the word was first recorded as meaning an ‘unlicensed saloon’ in an 1889 Pennsylvania newspaper. Similar to the WWII phrase ‘careless talk costs lives’ it essentially meant ‘speak carefully’ so as not to alert spies.
Blind pig: one of the stranger names for an illegal bar, these were typically dive-bars offering beer or liquor as a ‘complimentary’ refreshment, with an attraction such as an animal ostensibly being the main event.
Blind tiger: in what was seemingly a kind of forerunner to the vending machine, this was a bar where a system of drawers set into the wall allowed for exchange of money and drinks, the primary benefit being anonymity of the seller’s identity.
So do you have what it takes to build a moonshine empire and join the big leagues? Bessi Perri’s gang needs your help to take down her husband… she’ll meet you at Casa Loma soon!
Image credit: Protest against Toronto’s prohibition laws, c.1900