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To The Roaring 2020s! Ten Prohibition Cocktails To Try At Home

Throw It Back To The Gatsby Era With These Timeless Aperitifs

We can all agree that we haven’t had the start to the decade that we were hoping for! However, the collective feeling was very much the same just over one hundred years ago, as people everywhere emerged from times of trouble and decided to celebrate the new age in style, bringing about the decade known as The Roaring Twenties, an era synonymous with style, swing and speak-easies.

As we see hope emerge on the horizon that the global COVID-19 pandemic may be drawing to a close, there’s little doubt that there’ll be similar celebrations taking place in the coming months, so why not toast to the dawn of The Roaring 2020s this weekend with these vintage prohibition-era cocktails? No moonshine needed, of course!

Tom Collins

This gin-based cocktail was first popularised in the 19th century by ‘the father of mixology’ Jerry Thomas in his book, A Bartender’s Guide.

However, thanks to the increase in secret gin production during the age of prohibition, the Tom Collins rose to new heights of fame during the 1920s. This cocktail was particularly popular as it uses soda water instead of champagne, making it more accessible to the masses at the time – however, there’s nothing to say you can’t use champagne if you like!

Ingredients:

  • 50ml gin
  • 25ml sugar syrup
  • 25ml lemon juice
  • 125ml soda water

—Add the gin, sugar syrup and lemon juice to a glass filled with ice and stir. Top with chilled soda water and enjoy with a slice of lemon.


Bacardi Cocktail

No fancy name needed for this one! Drinkers of the 1920s were always quick to order a rum-based cocktail, as professionally-distilled Bacardi made a welcome change from the harsh tastes of the much more accessible illegal spirits brewed in the bathtubs of city bartenders. 

While rum was, like other spirits, outlawed at the time, the close proximity between Florida and Cuba meant that bottles of Bacardi could be smuggled into the US in huge amounts, providing a much-needed alternative to the moonshine that drinkers often had to resort to instead.

Ingredients:

  • 50ml Bacardi
  • 25ml lime juice
  • 25ml grenadine

—Add all ingredients to a cocktail shaker, with ice, and shake together. Strain into a martini glass and garnish with a maraschino cherry.


Gin Rickey

This concoction was said to be the go-to order of F. Scott Fitzgerald, the celebrated author behind ‘the great American novel’, The Great Gatsby. Like many prohibition-era cocktails, this is a fairly simple mix, yet still deliciously refreshing.

Ingredients:

  • 50ml gin
  • 25ml lime juice
  • 125ml soda water

—Add the gin and lime juice into a glass filled with ice and stir, before topping up with chilled soda water. Enjoy with a slice of lime.


Mint Julep

Enjoyed before the 1920s, a popular favourite during the 1920s and still found in the ‘classics’ section of many cocktail menus to this day, Mint Juleps were a favourite of those who needed a little sweetness to mask the sharp tastes of illicit spirits. 

While there’s not a drop of moonshine to be found in the Mint Juleps of the present day, the sweet, refreshing taste of this drink has given it long-standing popularity among drinkers of every decade. 

Ingredients:

  • 65ml Jack Daniels
  • 12.5ml sugar syrup
  • 1 handful of mint leaves

—Half-fill a short glass with crushed ice and add the Jack Daniels, sugar syrup and mint, then muddle with a spoon. Add crushed ice to the top of the glass, then garnish with a mint leaf.


Mary Pickford

We’ve already mentioned the smuggling of rum across the US borders from Cuba, but it appears that this recipe came with it. Upon its rise in popularity in the states, the drink was renamed after the popular 1920s silent-movie star Mary Pickford – whether she was a fan of the drink or not, we may never know!

Sweet and fruity, this will be a sure-fire summer favourite if you give it a try.

Ingredients:

  • 60ml spiced rum
  • 45ml pineapple juice
  • 5ml maraschino liquor 
  • 5ml grenadine

—Shake all ingredients together with ice, before straining into a chilled coupe glass. Garnish with a maraschino cherry.


Bee’s Knees

There was plenty of ‘buzz’ around this mix at the speak-easies of the time, with the sweet taste of honey being a great way to balance out the harshness of moonshine without diluting the alcohol completely. 

However, honey is also a delicious compliment to the much more palatable gins of today, so it’s still worth trying out a Bee’s Knees for yourself!

Ingredients:

  • 60ml dry gin
  • 12.5ml lemon juice
  • 12.5ml orange juice
  • 24ml honey syrup

—Mix the honey syrup by adding one teaspoon of warm water to three teaspoons of honey, stirring until fully combined. Add the honey syrup, along with the lemon juice, orange juice and gin to a shaker with ice and shake, before straining into a chilled coupe. Garnish with an orange slice.


Whiskey Sour

Perhaps the most famous prohibition-era cocktail, as it’s the one that has remained the most popular over the last one hundred years! Simple, sophisticated and a firm favourite among the jazz singers of the day, the Whiskey Sour is a concoction that everybody should try at least once.

Ingredients:

  • 50ml Jack Daniels
  • 35ml lemon juice
  • 12.5ml sugar syrup
  • 2 dashes of bitters
  • ½ fresh egg white

—Shake all ingredients together with ice until fully combined, then strain into a whiskey glass, filled to the top with ice cubes. Garnish with an orange slice and a maraschino cherry.


Sidecar

A staple on every upmarket prohibition-era cocktail list, the Sidecar was the favourite of the New York elite during the 1920s, as it was made up of rare foreign spirits that were – at the time – extremely hard to get ahold of. 

If you’re planning on recreating the luxury and decadence of The Great Gatsby with your own Roaring 20s-themed party once the COVID-19 pandemic is a thing of the past, this drink should be at the very top of your menu!

Ingredients:

  • 50ml Courvoisier
  • 25ml Couintreau
  • 25ml lemon juice
  • Dash of bitters

—Add Courvoisier, Cointreau and lemon juice to a shaker and shake with ice until the outside of the shaker is cold to the touch. Coat the rim of a chilled coupe glass with sugar and strain the mixture into the glass. 

White Lady

Adding a silkiness and sweetness to the base spirit of bathtub-brewed gin, the White Lady was a particular favourite among flappers who frequented the jazz clubs and speak-easies of the time. These days, it’s a popular Christmas cocktail, not too dissimilar to a Snowball. 

Ingredients:

  • 50ml gin
  • 25ml Cointreau
  • 25ml lemon juice
  • 25ml sugar syrup
  • ½ fresh egg white

—Add all ingredients to a shaker with ice and shake until fully combined, remove the ice from the shaker, then shake again until the mixture is frothy. Pour into a chilled coupe glass and garnish with a lemon slice.

French 75

Finally, a luxury cocktail of the prohibition era. The French 75 wasn’t technically a favourite of the 1920s, having only reached wider popularity once it was featured in The Savoy Cocktail Book, first published in 1930. However, as prohibition was still very much in place at the time, the French 75 definitely found its early fans in the speak-easies of the era!

Ingredients:

  • 125ml champagne
  • 50ml gin
  • 12.5ml sugar syrup
  • 12.5ml lemon juice

—Shake gin, sugar syrup and lemon juice together with ice, before straining into a champagne flute. Top with champagne and garnish with a maraschino cherry.

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