America Walks into a Bar by Christine Sismondo
A Spirited History of Taverns and Saloons, Speakeasies and Grog Shops

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Read the book and toast Sismondo. In telling the story of the rise and fall and rise again of the American bar, she has raised the study of barkeeping to serious history and told a terrific tale.
-National Post arts

Synopsis

When George Washington bade farewell to his officers, he did so in New York's Fraunces Tavern. When Andrew Jackson planned his defense of New Orleans against the British in 1815, he met Jean Lafitte in a grog shop. And when John Wilkes Booth plotted with his accomplices to carry out an assassination, they gathered in Surratt Tavern.

In America Walks into a Bar, Christine Sismondo recounts the rich and fascinating history of an institution often reviled, yet always central to American life. She traces the tavern from England to New England, showing how even the Puritans valued "a good Beere." With fast-paced narration and lively characters, she carries the story through the twentieth century and beyond, from repeated struggles over licensing and Sunday liquor sales, from the Whiskey Rebellion to the temperance movement, from attempts to ban "treating" to Prohibition and repeal. As the cockpit of organized crime, politics, and everyday social life, the bar has remained vital--and controversial--down to the present. In 2006, when the Hurricane Katrina Emergency Tax Relief Act was passed, a rider excluded bars from applying for aid or tax breaks on the grounds that they contributed nothing to the community. Sismondo proves otherwise: the bar has contributed everything to the American story.

Now in paperback, Sismondo's heady cocktail of agile prose and telling anecdotes offers a resounding toast to taprooms, taverns, saloons, speakeasies, and the local hangout where everybody knows your name.
 

About Christine Sismondo

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Christine Sismondo is a writer and lecturer in Humanities at York University in Toronto. She has written numerous articles about film, literature, drinking, and vice, as well as the book Mondo Cocktail, a narrative history of cocktails.
 
Published October 1, 2011 by Oxford University Press. 333 pages
Genres: History, Cooking, Political & Social Sciences. Non-fiction
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National Post arts

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Reviewed by Andrew Allentuck on Jul 15 2011

Read the book and toast Sismondo. In telling the story of the rise and fall and rise again of the American bar, she has raised the study of barkeeping to serious history and told a terrific tale.

Read Full Review of America Walks into a Bar: A S... | See more reviews from National Post arts

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