Government in 1919 began testing seized substances to determine if they violated Prohibition by containing too much alcohol. Medicines, after all, could contain some — but at a certain point the “medicine” would become illegal.
Many attempts are being made to evade the prohibition law by disguising alcoholic beverages as patent medicines. Some of those discovered are practically all alcohol, with only a little flavoring, like Jamaica ginger, as a disguise. Toilet waters [meaning perfumes and not literal toilet water] are also exmployed as a mask for intoxicating drinks, with a higher percentage of alcohol hidden from the detection of the inexpert by some strong perfume.
The ruling of the bureau is that all alcoholic mixtures sold as medicine must contain at least one drug of recognized therapeutic value; that only so much alcohol may be used as is required by the nature of the mixture as a medicine, and that it shall not be used as a beverage.
The bureau referenced was the Treasury Department’s Bureau of Internal Revenue, the precursor to today’s IRS. As much as you already hate the IRS for taking half your paycheck, imagine if they were still taking away your alcohol too.
Laboratory of Dry Law Enforcement: Washington Busy With Batteries of Test Tubes and Retorts Trying to Keep Track of New Ways of Camouflaging Alcohol as a Beverage
Published: Sunday, August 31, 1919