5 Famous Prohibition-Era Cocktails

By James Madeiros


Prohibition, for those of you who are not familiar with this dark chapter of American history, was the period between 1920 and 1933 when there was a federal ban on alcohol. That’s right – alcohol was illegal across the entire country.

Of course, that didn’t stop people who wanted a drink from finding one, which is why Prohibition is often blamed for giving rise to organized crime and one of the most violent periods in American history that didn’t involve a civil war.

People in search of the forbidden nectar would sometimes wet their whistles at a speakeasy – a kind of secret saloon that often had no sign and would be relocated from time to time to keep John Law off the scent. But, what were they drinking in those speakeasies?

1. Old-Fashioned

The old-fashioned has been around since the 1800s and has many variations, but a popular version during the Prohibition days required the barman to muddle a sugar cube in a splash of water at the bottom of an old-fashioned glass, followed by adding a dash of Angostura bitters, a few ice cubes, a jigger of whiskey and a squeeze of lemon.

2. Highball

Another easy one that elevated the flavor of one of Prohibition’s most commonly available spirits, a highball is made by mixing whiskey and ginger beer over ice with a twist of lime. Any brown spirit will do, though, and the mixture can be as high as 1 to 1 – especially if you’re a favorite at your local speakeasy.

3. Singapore Sling

This gin drink tastes as good as it sounds and, true to its name, was first developed in Singapore. How it reached the shores of America during a booze ban is anybody’s guess, although word travels fast for drinks this tasty. Make it by adding an ounce of fresh lemon juice, 1/4-ounce simple syrup and 1/2 ounce cherry brandy to 2 ounces of club soda and a jigger of gin.

4. Gin Buck

This is more a less a highball made with gin. There are several kinds of “bucks” in a bartender’s handbook made with all types of liquors and additional ingredients, but the simplicity of the gin buck is highly prized. Mix a jigger of gin with 4 ounces of ginger beer and a splash of lemon juice over ice to make this easy and tasty cocktail. Add a lemon twist if you want to class it up a little.

5. Sidecar

The sidecar’s origins are the stuff of legend and its emergence as a popular drink during Prohibition makes it a necessary feature on any list paying homage to the period. Once again, it’s a cocktail made popular in another country while the U.S. was busy criminalizing fun. There are both French and English versions of the drink (although involving the same ingredients), but since France fights hardest to lay claim to the origin, we’ll honor that recipe: Pour equal parts cognac, Cointreau and lemon juice in a shaker half-filled with ice then strain and serve in a sugar-rimmed glass.

Legal Stuff: We should remind everyone that our blog entries are for your information only and are not intended as medical advice. If you’re going to drink, do it legally and responsibly; don’t be stupid =).

← Older Post Newer Post →