09 March 2009

Food & Drink: Cocktails of the 1920s

By Jennifer Mueller

Originally, the term "cocktail" meant only those drinks that contained bitters, but now has come to mean any mixed drink. Cocktails have been around since the early 1800s, with the Sazerac as one of the first known by name in the 1820s. But with the advent of cheaply-made illegal alcohol during Prohibition, they quickly became popular, often to cover the taste of the inferior alcohol. Fashionable parties with fashionable drinks. The following are all from the 1920s.

Between The Sheets
3/4 oz. each of rum, brandy, Cointreau; a splash of lemon juice or sour mix; blend with ice, strain, and serve up in a chilled cocktail glass

Champagne Punch
1 cup water
2 tablespoons orange Curacao
2 cups sugar
Juice of 2 lemons
1 quart California champagne
2 cups tea infusion
4 tablespoons brandy
2 tablespoons Medford rum
1 quart soda water
Make a syrup by boiling water and sugar for ten minutes. Mix champagne, brandy, rum, Curacao, lemon juice, and tea infusion. Sweeten to taste with syrup and pour into punch-bowl over a large piece of ice. Just before serving, add soda water.

Old Fashioned
2 oz. Whiskey or Bourbon, a splash of simple syrup, bitters, and Soda. Fill rocks glass with ice, add simple syrup, bitters, liquor, and soda, garnish with an orange slice and cherry.

Mint Julep
1. Fill a tall glass or silver tumbler with crushed ice
2. Put 2 sprigs of fresh mint in another glass
3. Add 1/4 oz. of water
4. Add 1 tsp. sugar
5. Muddle ingredients well
6. Add 3 oz. of bourbon
7. Stir gently, but thoroughly
8. Strain into glass with crushed ice
9. Garnish with fresh sprigs of mint

Red Death
1 oz. vodka; 3/4 oz. each of amaretto, triple sec, Southern Comfort, & sloe gin; splash of orange juice; dash of lime juice. Shake with ice & pour into a tall glass.

Mary Pickford
Stir well with cracked ice:
1 1/2 oz white rum
1 oz unsweetened pineapple juice
1/2 teaspoon grenadine
Strain into chilled cocktail glass and drop in a maraschino cherry.

Colony Cocktail
Shake well with cracked ice:
1 1/2 oz gin
3/4 oz grapefruit juice
2 tsp maraschino
Strain into chilled cocktail glass.

Bacardi Cocktail
Shake well with cracked ice:
1 1/2 oz light rum
1 /2 oz lime juice
3 dashes grenadine
Strain into chilled cocktail glass.

Barbary Coast
Shake well with cracked ice:
3/4 oz blended scotch
3/4 oz gin
3/4 oz crème de cacao
3/4 oz heavy cream
Strain into chilled cocktail glass.

Shake well with cracked ice:
1 1/4 oz cognac
1/2 oz Cointreau
3/4 oz fresh-squeezed lemon juice
Strain into chilled, sugar-rimmed cocktail glass

French 75
Shake well with cracked ice:
1 1/2 oz London dry gin
1/2 oz fresh-squeezed lemon juice
3/4 oz simple syrup
Strain into highball glass full of cracked ice and top off with chilled champagne.


Elizabeth said...

What's a "tea infusion"?

Elizabeth said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Did you ever find out what a tea infusion was?

Rhett said...

The Sazerac was never found to be that old by anything other than reputation. The earliest account wasn't even until the late 1800's. Also, a lot of people say that Prohibition made cocktails more popular like you say here as well, but all historical accounts suggest that it actually had the opposite effect. The "Golden Age" of cocktails is considered the Jerry Thomas era, which ended before Prohibition. Tons of drinks and recipes were lost during that period. Basically all classic cocktails come from before or during the 1920's, which suggests that Prohibition had a detrimental effect.

Vodka cocktails didn't really show up until the 1950's, punches were popular in the 1800's mostly and did not contain soda and DEFINITELY did not contain tea - which is a very modern idea, an Old-Fashioned should NEVER contain soda if made properly and never did until mid 20th century bartenders started ruining it, the Bacardi Cocktail was first printed in 1937... anyway, you have a ton of factual errors here.

One of the worst is your listing of the Red Death "cocktail." Vodka is never in classic cocktails most importantly (as I mentioned it didn't become popular in North America until the 1950's), but also that drink comes after the Kamikaze and the Alabama Slammer, which are from the 1970's and 80's. As far as I can tell you're at least 50 years off on that one.

There are so many great drinks and so much great history from that era, it's definitely worth doing a bit of research before posting on it!

Rhett said...

And in case my comment showing the wealth of factual errors in this post doesn't make it through, at least let me answer the "tea infusion" questions:
using tea in cocktails is a very, very modern idea and would not have been used in the 1920's, especially not in a punch (which weren't very popular in the 20's anyway).
An infusion is when you "infuse" a spirit or liqueur with something, such as an herb, a fruit, or tea. Again, this is an extremely modern mixology technique (ie the last 5-10 years). It's the same idea as making a liqueur such as Benedictine or Chartreuse, or even making a gin - you're mecerating certain ingredients in the alcohol. Nowadays a lot of bartenders will infuse spirits in this way, such as a Lapsang Souchong infused bourbon, or a lemon peel infused vodka, or simply an Earl Grey tea infused gin. You can make syrups this way as well, but the term refers to infusing alcohol.
Again, this was not done in the 1920's so that recipe for "Champagne Punch" is a modern one (also because of the addition of soda, which wasn't done back then either).

Anonymous said...

I think Rhett should be hired to re-write this article. I don't know a lot about the topic but even after ten minutes looking for 1920 cocktails even I picked up on the fact that vodka wasn't popular for the time, the reigning choices being gin and whiskey, run only popular in the Caribbean where drinking wasn't illegal; and I know tea infused things is a new idea. Decent cocktail list, completely mis-presented. Thank you, Rhett

Steve Berke said...

I enjoyed reading your work. I'll come back for more

Keep up the good work :) from TheStillery, a stuart bar in Florida