The Origins of the Phrase “The Real McCoy”

Ever wondered where the phrase “The Real McCoy” came from? Well, here’s the definitive answer, in the form of a real life story back in the Prohibition days in the U.S, about a man, a liquor runner named William McCoy (what did you expect?):

Sailor William McCoy got into the bootlegging business mostly because he loved boats. According to Prohibition, by Edward Behr, McCoy designed “luxurious speedboats for millionaires” before he became a rum runner. Transporting $8 cases of the liquor from the Bahamas to Martha’s Vineyard on his ship the Arethusa, he made $300,000 in profit for each trip.

McCoy’s liquor was genuine imported spirits — and not homemade swill or moonshine — but imitators tried to claim their illicit drink was “The Real McCoy.” The Arethusa, according to Behr, “was a floating liquor store, with shelves of samples for visitors.

Tasting was encouraged…a swiveling machine-gun emplacement was prominently in view.” Despite trying to hide out with some Native Americans, McCoy was eventually arrested and thrown in jail. After being released, he retired to Florida a rich man.

Original post: Time Magazine

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