Classic Cocktails by Allie Michelle
Get in good spirits with Vintage-inspired Cocktails
Classic cocktails capture a certain sophistication that lacks in today’s culture. Looking back, it’s easy to picture men dressed sharply in tailored suits sipping from a martini glass or women dressed to the nines with a cocktail in hand. Here’s a look at the drinking culture that characterized the first half of the twentieth century with cocktail recipes below.
During the world wide economic boom of the Roaring Twenties, society broke free from tradition. The French called the period the “années folles” or “Crazy Years”. This decade became characterized by pushing the social norms and otherwise breaking all the rules.
After drinking became illegal in the United States in 1919, the parties only got bigger and better. The outlaw of alcohol made its consumption more rampant and led to the rise of extravagant underground parties filled with bootlegged spirits. Speakeasies thrived across the country, and included decadent soirees with live bands, food, and dance performances. Those who took the risk of visiting an illicit Speakeasy, didn’t simply have a beer. They went to get drunk. In turn, organized crime increased everywhere from all the alcohol smuggling, and gangsters got richer and more violent.
The decadent partying during the Roaring Twenties came to a screeching halt after the crash of the stock market in 1929. The Great Depression began, ushering in a decade of worldwide gloom and hardship. The attitude shifted once World War II broke out. The military viewed alcohol as good for morale and the war effort. A large percentage of alcohol production in the United States went directly to the armed forces. British officers encouraged soldiers to drink mixtures of gin and lime to ward off diseases. Red Army soldiers had their daily rations of “Russian Water”, and vodka was considered “as important as Katyusha rocket launchers in the victory over Nazism”.
The Post-war prosperity of the 1950s and 60s, brought on a resurgence of more lavish drinking styles seen back in the 20s. Ironically, Prohibition influenced the custom of the 1950s cocktail party because it led to drinking in the home. In addition, the cocktail developed as a way to flavor bad booze. This period really set the foundation for modern mixology where blended drinks became increasingly more popular. In 1948, David A. Embury first published The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks which outlined the basic principles for fashioning a quality cocktail. According to his book, each drink should contain a single spirit as a base, a modifying agent such as fruit juices to enhance the flavor, along with a touch of special flavoring like simple syrup or grenadine.
Whether looking to capture the decadence of a Gatsby-esque soiree or drink like Don Draper from Mad Men, try out these old-fashioned drinks to get a real taste of history.
“Double frozen Daiquiris, the great ones that Constante made, that had no taste of alcohol and felt, as you drank them, the way downhill glacier skiing feels running through powder snow and, after the sixth and eighth, felt like downhill glacier skiing feels when you are running unroped.” – from Islands in the Stream by Ernest Hemingway
Glass Type: Martini Glass
- 3 ½ (105 ml) shots rum
- 1 shot (30 ml) grapefruit juice
- ¾ shot (22 ml) maraschino liqueur
- 1 shot (30 ml) lime juice
- ½ shot (15 ml) sugar syrup (sugar mixed with boiling water – 1 water : 2 sugar)
Make sugar syrup by slowly mixing sugar with boiling water (1 water : 2 sugar). Shake all ingredients with ice and strain into glass. Garnish with lime wedge or orange twist.
While living in Key West, Ernest Hemingway regularly visited a bar in Havana, Cuba called Floridita to write, fish, and enjoy a drink or two. As a diabetic, Hemingway would order his own lighter version of the Daiquiri. By 1937, the bar named the drink after him on the menu, the misspelled “E. Henmiway Special”.
The Mary Pickford
“The Mary Pickford, invented during a visit to Havana of the screen favourite by Fred Kaufman, is two-thirds pineapple-juice and one-third Bacardi, with a dash of grenadine. Both cocktails [The Presidenté is also mentioned] are sweetish and should be well shaken. The Pineapple juice must be fresh-squeezed.” – from Basil Woon’s 1928 book When It’s Cocktail Time in Cuba
Glass Type: Martini Glass
- 2 shots (60 ml) rum
- 1 ½ shot (45 ml) pineapple juice
- ¼ shot (8 ml) grenadine
- ⅛ shot (4 ml) Luxardo maraschino liqueur
Shake ingredients with ice and strain into glass. Garnish with maraschino cherry.
Named after the silent film star, the pale pink cocktail dates back to the Prohibition era. A close friend of the actress invented the drink in Cuba especially for her while she filmed a movie with Charlie Chaplin and her husband, Douglas Fairbanks. The fruity flavors accompanied with the sugary taste of rum perfectly capture the essence of this entertainer, known at the time as “America’s Sweetheart”.
Glass Type: Pewter Cup or Highball Glass
- 1-2 teaspoons of sugar
- 7 sprigs (or a handful) of muddled mint leaves
- 2-3 shots (60-90ml) bourbon
Shake ingredients with ice and strain into cup or glass half filled with crushed ice. Stir and top off with more crushed ice. Garnish with mint sprig.
**Variation add aromatic bitters and 1 shot (30 ml) peach schnapps for Georgia Mint Julep
The Mint Julep originates in the southern United States prior to the Prohibition period. Mint and sugar cut sweetly through the robustness of bourbon in this delicious cocktail.
The South Side
Glass Type: Martini or Highball Glass
- 2 teaspoons of sugar
- 2 shots (60ml) of gin
- ½ shot (30ml) of lemon juice
Shake all ingredients with ice and strain into chilled glass. Garnish with mint sprig.
Variation top off with club soda for a Southside Fizz or top off with champagne for Southside Royale
Although the South Side cocktail has a hazy history, its reputation springs from the Prohibition era when the likes of Al Capone and other notorious gangsters of Chicago’s south side made this their beverage of choice, hence the name. Although, the origin of the recipe probably comes from New York’s 21 Club, a former Speakeasy which still serves the drink today. The gin mixed with mint and a splash of lime makes this a refreshingly balanced cocktail.
“Here’s looking at you kid.” – from the 1942 film, Casablanca
Glass Type: Champagne Flute
- 1 ½ shot (45 ml) of gin
- ½ shot (15 ml) fresh lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- Top with champagne
Shake gin, lemon juice, and sugar with ice. Top with champagne. Garnish with a lemon twist or pop in a maraschino cherry
Three parts bite, one part sugar, this bittersweet cocktail is named after a small, yet powerful French gun from World War I with a vicious rate of fire. In the 1942 classic film, Casablanca, German officers order the drink at Rick’s Café Americain.
“A real gimlet is half gin and half Rose’s lime juice and nothing else.” – from The Long Goodbye by Raymond Chandler published in 1953
Glass Type: Martini Glass
- 2 ½ shots (75ml) gin
- ¾ shot (22ml) Rose’s Lime Cordial Juice
Shake gin and lime juice with crushed ice. Strain into a Martini glass. Garnish with Lime Wedge
**Variations top off with club soda to curb sweetness or replace gin with vodka