On & Off Broadway


Review by Elyse Trevers


What’s the difference between a mixed drink and a cocktail? By the end of Imbible: A Spirited History of Drinking, playing at the New World Stages, you should know the answer.

Charming bartender/playwright Anthony Caporale greets the audience as it enters the intimate theater. Using wit, some bad jokes, and four-part harmony with three other singers, Caporale traces the history of alcohol through the ages. He begins at the beginning; with the cavewoman discovering that wheat left out in the rain can become fermented, turning into a form of beer.

As narrator, Caporale combines history with science to detail the medicinal uses of alcohol. Years ago when the water supply was tainted, causing diseases, it was much safer to drink alcohol than it was to drink water. So every man, woman and child drank beer. He dresses up like the Egyptian alchemists trying to convert lead to gold when they learned about distillation.

When he gets to the Prohibition period, he takes a different tack, noting that the law caused all the talented bartenders to leave the country. To meet the demand for alcohol, people served inferior products and often mixed household products and cleansers to give the poisonous liquor a better smell. Drinking became illegal and, more importantly, dangerous.

The Imbible audience must be 21 to attend the show and the ticket price includes three drinks: one beer, one mixed drink and one gin and tonic (made by the actor himself.) He and the cast members perform songs and dress up to do little skits that are somewhat silly and amateurish. However, the more people drank, the more they laughed.

What’s the difference between a bartender and a mixologist? Bartenders tell stories and entertain people while the mixologist makes drinks. So Anthony proudly calls himself a bartender as he regaled the audience.

Imbible tells lots of fascinating stories, mixing history and science and drinking and proving that Caporal is definitely a bartender.