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Issue 105 - Cross Border Bourbon

Whisky Magazine Issue 105
July 2012


This article is 5 years old and some information provided may be time sensitive. Please check all details of events, tours, opening times and other information before travelling or making arrangements.

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Cross Border Bourbon

Fred Minnick investigates the Mexican border town which supplied U.S. during prohibition

As the Temperance movement gained widespread support in the early 1900s, U. S. saloon owners and distillers considered Prohibition's inevitability. Rather than joining the ranks to debate Temperance, many just packed up and moved South.

In Mexico, they were free to serve, sell and make all the whiskey they pleased. Prohibition was a U. S. law, not a Mexican one. If a bootlegger attempted to transport hooch across the border, well, that was his problem, not the distillery's.

The Volstead Act of 1919 created overnight liquor commerce in Juarez, Mexico, a border town that had no bridges or sense of migrant control. One could walk across the El Paso, Texas, down dusty roads into Mexico without the slightest confrontation from a border cop.

Although it only had 10,000 residents then, Juarez became Little Kentucky and New York all in one tiny town.

Mexican-Made Bourbon

When Juarez taverns opened during Prohibition, celebrities started showing up without the anxiety they felt in a Chicago speakeasy. They partied at the Kentucky Club, Lobby Café and Mint Café, where bartenders served Mint Juleps for 60 cents, Johnnie Walker for 50 cents or a shot of D. M. American Whiskey for 25 cents.

But more importantly, in the grand scheme of overall liquor production, Juarez was free to produce whiskey and even Bourbon. No laws regulated the Mexican producers from labelling their whiskey Bourbon, as it did not become a U. S.-only product until 1964.

According to a 1933 Associated Press ...

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