Deirdre Capone Explains Uncle Al's Whiskey Drink
OLD TOWN — The eccentric grandniece of Al Capone shared her notorious "Uncle Al's," recipe for a proper cocktail Wednesday night with hundreds of Chicagoans decked out in '20s fashion in celebration of the 79th anniversary of Prohibition repeal day at the Chicago History Museum.
Deirdre Capone, 72, explained the two-finger pour of whiskey on the rocks Uncle Al taught her with a half teaspoon of water to top it off as 26-year-old bartender Brandon Phillips added the recipe to his pocket-sized drink book.
"I came down to celebrate the repeal," said Phillips, who bartends at the Drawing Room. "I believe I've poured her a drink once or twice."
Wearing a white fur jacket, Deirdre Capone signed Phillips' cocktail book and reveled in her great-uncle's notoriety.
"Look at those hands," she said, admiring her own hands. "Those are Capone hands."
Deirdre Capone told stories of growing up with her great-uncle and her grandfather, Ralph Capone, immediately after a video presentation by the history museum that depicted the brutality of Capone and drew cheers from the crowd.
"Al Capone was a mobster. Yes he was," she said. "Was he a monster? No, he was not."
When she was in her 30s, Deirdre Capone said she ran from the shadow of her notorious relative to Minnesota, but returned to visit Chicago and ultimately accepted her ties to Al Capone.
"I'm not some kind of razor blade chewing woman," she said.
Although the Italian American community in Chicago has expressed outrage in the past for Capone-based events, John Russick, the history museum's director of curatorial affairs, said the name is too synonymous with Chicago to hide the history.
"It's nice they are finally acknowledging this is part of our history," said 49-year-old River North resident Edward Cole. "It's kind of about time."
Deirdre Capone said she was surprised by the huge turnout for the event, which drew a sold out crowd of 400.
"There is a fascination with this era of our history," she said. "Back then men were men, women were women and people were living on the edge."
Brenda Miller, whose family worked for Al and Ralph Capone, came all the way from Kentucky to celebrate her 46th birthday with Deirdre Capone.
"My family has always told me about Ralph and Al ever since I was a kid," she said. "My family spent many summers at Ralph's home in Mercer, Wis."
For 65-year-old George Rogge, the throwback to the '20s and the Prohibition era at the museum Wednesday night was eerily reminiscent to today's fight over the legalization of marijuana.
"I think the Prohibition era is just like today with the marijuana situation," Rogge, who lives in the Loop, said. "It's almost the exact same thing."