Harlem Nutcracker: Homemade Brew Popular But Risky

| September 21, 2010 | 2 Comments

In Prohibition-era Harlem, bootleggers sold cheap and sometimes toxic liquor and moonshine at rent parties and speakeasies for as little as 25 cents a pop.

Rotgut whiskey was sold in basement barrooms, drugstores and delicatessens on Lenox Avenue. Mom-and-pop operations doled out home brews from bathtubs and backyard stills.

Some semblance of those days are back in Harlem, where potent sweet liquor drinks are being mixed at home and sold illegally off stoops, in apartment hallways and in bodegas and barbershops.

The drinks, a blend of various hard liquors and fruit juices, are called nutcracker, and they are being sold in sealed plastic bottles or Styrofoam cups for $5 throughout Harlem.

Sales of the drink have been part of the underground economy for years, but with this summer’s heat and the economic slump they have become more visible. Visitors to any block party or outdoor event in Harlem this summer could not have missed the chant of “Nutcrackers! Nutcrackers!”

People in the neighborhood said selling nutcrackers had become more prevalent in the dismal economy, a means some have used to supplement their incomes with quick and easy money. Some who remember the crack boom of the mid-1980s and early 1990s, and the destruction it heaped upon the community, justify the sales, seeing them as akin to marijuana dealing or numbers gambling.

But others in Harlem, including parents and pastors, say they are worried, particularly because of the drink’s potency, popularity with teenagers and easy availability.

“I think adults and young adults are being very selfish and using greed to raise money,” said the Rev. Vernon Williams, an antiviolence activist who sees a correlation between nutcracker sales and youth violence. “And they are taking this toxic combination of multiple high-level alcohols and selling it indiscriminately to anyone who has the $5.”

Police officials said they were aware of the nutcracker sales and had done what they could to address the issue. They said the department had used both plainclothes and uniformed officers to issue summonses to stores and individuals caught selling it. People found buying the drinks were issued summonses for having an open container of alcohol, the police said.

Sellers include young and older women, blue-collar workers, street hustlers and the underemployed. To give themselves an edge, some sellers even make home deliveries.

To read the full article, click here —> In Harlem, Nutcracker Drink Is Popular but Risky – NYTimes.com.

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Category: Harlem News

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  1. Gm9No Gravatar says:

    Shouldn’t you point out the attribution for this article AT THE BEGINNING?

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