Once, during Prohibition, I was forced to live for days on nothing but food or water. — W.C. Fields
Guys, wasn’t Prohibition crazy? Granted, I can throw back a cocktail or two, but regardless of your affinity for alcohol, isn’t it kind of nuts that there was a time when in the USA, it was illegal to drink it? I’ve always been kind of fascinated by that twelve year period in American history, but it wasn’t until my summer trip to Savannah that I realized how intertwined the city is with those dry days. Nor did I know what a great place it is to drink today. (Okay, that I could guess. It is the south, after all!)
Savannah’s Prohibition Museum
Personally, I love to peruse an occasional museum when I travel — though I have to admit that in general, history museums aren’t exactly my jam.
I’m always open to exceptions, however, and the The American Prohibition Museum, opened in 2017, certainly seemed like it would be anything but boring. Unsure? So, here’s the scoop on Prohibition. The temperance movement, ushered in by a wave of religious revivalism and a desire to “clean up” post-World-War-One society, led to the ambitious passage of the the 18th amendment in 1920. Bootlegging, speakeasies, and an accompanying explosion in gang violence ensued as drinking alcohol become more alluring than ever and everyday citizens became criminals. Overall, it didn’t go great. In 1933, Congress passed the 21st amendment, which reversed Prohibition, and was the first and only time an Amendment to the US Constitution was repealed. Phew!
As we waltzed in, prepared to be wowed, a plaque out front alerted us to the fact that America’s first act of alcohol prohibition in America was decreed right here in Savannah in 1735. Guess Savannah was the perfect place for this palace of learning, after all! Also relevant? Georgia actually went dry prior to national Prohibition, along with several other teacher’s pet states. That whole situation didn’t sit well with residents of Savannah, who actually attempted to secede from Georgia and form their own booze-friendly state.
Inside, the history lessons went far beyond the borders of Georgia. Displays included vintage Coca Cola ads that highlighted the fact that they were a legal, non-alcoholic beverage; prescription pads for “medicinal” whiskey; and baby carriages converted into barrel-sized flasks for moms on the go — and on a bender.
And of course, there were history lessons and interesting factoids galore. One I found fascinating? As if you needed any more reasons to disapprove of prohibition, it was actually a catalyst for the Klu Klux Klan’s resurgence. They used the law to justify brutal attacks on immigrant and minority bootleggers’ homes and businesses.
Tragically, we visited when the museum’s speakeasy-inspired bar was closed. (More museums should definitely have bars, in my opinion.) But even without a cocktail to cap it off, The American Prohibition Museum provides a look at a past that is stark in contrast to the easygoing modern day drinking culture of Savannah. It’s a must do in my mind!
Well, thank goodness we got all that Prohibition business out of the way! Today, Savannah is a thriving center for craft beverage makers of all kinds. Our time at the museum made us eager to explore both a spirits distillery and a mead maker! We aren’t beer drinkers, but if you are, find your bliss here. While there isn’t a winery within the city limits, there are a few further afield. Here’s where we visited:
Ghost Coast Distillery
The Ghost Coast Distillery specializes in whiskey, no surprise, but also creates some delicious vodka, rum, and speciality liquors.
Free, forty-minute tours are offered on the top of each hour during visiting hours (which vary throughout the week — check their website for details!) Don’t conflate free with dinky — this is an incredible tour with an immersive movie about Savannah’s history in a cute custom theater, a behind-the-scenes peek at the production, and some one-on-one time with one of the distillers.
Of course, we couldn’t leave without sampling the product! We bellied up to the Cocktail Room bar for a sample flight of Ghost Coast’s spirits and cocktails. How fun is a mini cocktail flight? If you’re a spirits fan of any sort, you’ve got to put Ghost Coast on your to-do list for Savannah.
Savannah Bee Company
Familiar with mead? Mead is an alcoholic beverage based from honey. So where better to taste some than Savannah Bee Company? There are three locations in Savannah, each with mead and honey bars! We visited the flagship location and split a $10 tasting of several meads, from still to sparkling, semi-sweet to sweet.
Plus, unlimited honey tastings — for free! I adored this place, pretty much needless to say.
Savanna’s Best Drinking Tours
Want to take a drinking tour in Savannah? We strongly considered these but due to time constraints, had to save it for next time. From a historic drinking and walking tour to a haunted pub crawl, there are some pretty enticing drinking tours of Savannah on offer — let me know what you think if you try one!
Where to Drink in Savannah
Savannah is full of fabulous places to drink, and an attempt at an exhaustive list would be futile. Instead, here are a few favorites from our sister trip.
The Wyld Dock Bar
What’s more Georgia than The Wyld?! Toast to the Southern sunset with alcoholic slushies, a long list of craft canned beers, liters of sangria, and a cocktail list of modern twists on the old classics.
It’s hard to find a list of best cocktail spots in Savannah that doesn’t rave about Artillery Bar. I can see why. From the stunning interior design to the creative cocktail list, it’s a show stopper. No beer, no shots, and no nonsence here! And with a sharp dress code and a no phones rule, it’s the perfect place to soak up some throwback speakeasy vibes.
We were not even low-key obsessed with The Grey — we were full obsessed. Dinner reservations can be hard to come by, but you can nab a seat at the bar for modern cocktails, an extensive wine list, and local whiskey flights. A former Greyhound bus station turned Savannah hotspot, The Grey feels like the place to be in the Hostess City of the South.
This Australian-inspired eatery is the brunch reservation to beat in Savannah. From the Bondi Beach Mimosa to the CQ Bloody Mary, the breakfast cocktails are enough to make Collins Quarter a must do, though Spiced Lavender Mocha and the Iced Mint Julep prove there’s plenty of virgin reasons to book a meal here regardless. I can’t wait to have dinner here next time I come to Savannah!
Where else would you add to this guide?
A few announcements!Sign ups are rolling in for the latest Wander Women Retreat. Join us in St. Pete! Also, I’m a keynote speaker at the Women In Travel Summit in Portland Maine this May — grab one of the last remaining tickets, and sign up for one-on-one mentoring sessions with me. I can’t wait to meet ya!