Thursday, April 16, 2009

1930s and 1940s Cocktail Recipes

Throwing a fabulous 1930s or 1940s themed cocktail party and want to make sure the drinks list is up to scratch? Below is a list of popular cocktails that were served in the post-Prohibition years.

Note that cocktails from the 1930s and '40s were predominantly based on gin, rum, brandy or whiskey - vodka did not make an appearance (in American cocktails) until the 1950s.

Clark Gable and Constance Bennett imbibing
in the 1935 movie 'After Office Hours'

1 measure Cointreau
1 measure brandy/cognac
1 measure lemon juice
Shake with ice and strain into sugar-rimmed cocktail (martini) glass and garnish with a strip of lemon rind.

Gin Sour
2 measures gin
juice of half a large lemon
1 tsp caster sugar
Shake all ingredients with ice and strain into a short glass.

Gin Fizz
2 measures gin
juice of half a large lemon
1 tsp caster sugar
Soda water
Shake the gin, lemon juice and sugar with ice until the sugar dissolves. Pour over ice in a highball glass and top up with soda water.

Orange Blossom
equal parts gin and fresh squeezed orange juice
Shake with ice and strain into a cocktail (Martini) glass

Pink Lady
1.5 measures Plymouth gin (as opposed to the more common London Dry gin)
half measure grenadine
half measure heavy cream
quarter measure lemon juice
1 measure egg white
Dip the rim of a champagne saucer in grenadine and then in caster sugar to make a pink rim. Shake the ingredients with ice and strain into the glass, add a cherry garnish.

Whiskey Sour

1 generous measure of American whiskey
Juice of half a lemon
1 tsp caster sugar
soda water
Mix lemon juice and sugar in a small tumbler with a three ice cubes until sugar is dissolved. Add whiskey and stir, then add a dash of soda water.

Originally created by Antoine Amédée Peychaud in the 1830s in New Orleans, it's reportedly the first cocktail ever invented in America. A recipe for the Sazerac is listed inthe book Famous New Orleans Drinks and How to Mix 'Em published in 1937.
6 measures rye whiskey
1 measure absinthe
few dashes of Peychaud's bitters
1 sugar cube (or a small amount of simple syrup)
Curl of lemon peel for garnish
Pack an old fashioned (lowball) glass with ice to chill it. In a second glass, muddle the sugar cube and bitters, then add the rye whiskey. Empty the ice from the first glass and pour the absinthe in and swirl around to coat the sides of the glass, then discard any excess absinthe. Pour the rye-sugar-bitters mixture into the absinthe-coated glass and garnish with a lemon peel.

Horse's Neck
1 lemon
2 measures dry gin, or bourbon/whiskey
dry ginger ale
Cut the entire rind from the lemon in one long spiral, and hang it from the rim of a tall glass so it dangles inside the glass. Add lots of ice and the gin or whiskey, then top up with ginger ale.

A very New York cocktail from the early 20th century.
1.5 measures gin
three-quarters measure dry vermouth
three-quarters measure sweet red vermouth
juice of quarter of an orange
Shake all ingredients with ice and strain into a cocktail (Martini) glass, garnish with a slice of orange.

half measure dry white vermouth
2.5 measures gin
2 cocktail onions
Pour vermouth and gin into a glass with ice, stir and let chill for 30 seconds. Skewer onions on a cocktail stick and place in a cocktail (Martini) glass so onions rest at the bottom. Strain vermouth/gin into the glass.

Planter's Punch
1 measure fresh lime juice
1 measure orange juice
2 measures dark rum
half measure grenadine
dash of bitters
chilled soda water or lemonade
Add lime, orange juice, rum and grenadine to a pitcher of ice and mix well. Fill a wide tumbler (e.g. fat tall glass) with ice and add a dash of bitters to the bottom. Strain the rum/juice/grenadine mixture into the glass and top up with soda water or lemonade. Garnish with peach slices.

Champagne Cocktail
1 sugar cube
2-3 dashes of bitters
quarter measure cognac/brandy
Place the suagr cube in the bottom of a champagne flute, add the bitters and roll the sugar lump around to soak it up. Add brandy and top with champagne.

Mint Julep
One of the oldest cocktails of them all. It originated in the southern United States, probably during the eighteenth century.
2 measures bourbon (American whiskey)
8-10 fresh mint leaves
1 tbsp caster sugar
Muddle the mint and sugar in a tall glass (alternatively put mint, sugar and a dash of hot water in a short glass and grind together, then spoon into a tall glass over crushed ice). Add bourbon, top off with crushed ice, stir well and let stand to chill the drink and let the ice partially melt. Garnish with mint leaves.

2 and a quarter measures American rye whiskey
1 measures sweet red vermouth
Dash of bitters
Maraschino cherry to garnish
Shake ingredients with ice and strain into a chilled cocktail (Martini) glass, garnish with the cherry.

Sherry Flip
2 measures brown cream sherry
half tsp caster sugar
1 egg, beaten
grated nutmeg to garnish
Shake all ingredients with ice and strain into a small wine glass. Sprinke nutmeg on the surface.

1 measure gin
dash of sweet red vermouth

Mix gin and vermouth gently in a pitcher of ice, then strain into a cocktail (Martini) glass. Squeeze a twist of lemon rind over the surface to release essential oils on top of the drink. Add a green olive skewered on a cocktail stick.

Legendary 1930s recipe created at Don the Beachcomber restaurant in Hollywood as a hangover cure and became popular at the 1939 World's Fair in New York.
1 measure white rum
measure light rum
measure dark rum
measure apricot brandy
measure pineapple juice
measure papaya juice
½ measure
151-proof rum
Dash of grenadine
Shake all ingredients other than the 151-proof rum with ice. Pour drink and ice into a tall glass and top with the high-proof rum.


Neal said...

Great selection of classic drinks! If you were in New Orleans post-Prohibition, the Sazerac would have been very popular too:

6 measures rye whiskey
1 measure absinthe
a few dashes of Peychaud's bitters
a sugar cube or a small amount of simple syrup

At the risk of being pedantic: "Gin Martini" would have been redundant, since as you noted, vodka wasn't popular at the time. Nor did people feel the need to call anything and everything served in a cocktail glass a "martini". :-)

Sharon said...

Hi Neal,

Thanks for the suggestion. I'll add the Sazerac (interesting name!) to the list.

You caught me on the 'Gin Martini' name - I specified gin in the name for the benefit of modern readers who might assume a martini is made with vodka. As I've put the recipe underneath, having 'gin' in the name is a little redundant, so I'll take it out to be more authentic :)

Miss Iowa said...

I know this is an old post, but wanted to comment. At a garage sale today I bought a menu from a Swedish restaurant in Chicago; I'm guessing it's vintage mid-1940s as they added to the menu (menu is printed; this was added with a typewriter): "add 3 cents to all listed prices to cover Distilled Spirits Tax effective 4/1/44." I found your blog while looking for recipes for Sazarac and champagne cocktail.

andrew toynbee said...

I am writing a novel which briefly transports the characters back to a mid-1930's bar (dream sequence). Your wonderful blog has given me some good ideas for the drinks they might enjoy, but I don't know what they'd look like.

I assume a Manhattan would take on a pink appearance due to the red vermouth.

Would a Horse's Neck be golden in colour because of the whiskey and ginger ale? Also, would a man be likely to choose this particular drink?

Hope you can help
Andrew Toynbee

Sharon said...

Hi Andrew,

Thanks for your comment. A Manhattan would indeed be reddish in colour due to both the vermouth and the bitters. You can see a photo here:

As for a horse's neck, I've never made one myself so can't give you a 100% accurate gauge of colour, but doing a quick Google images search confirms it would be a very pale amber-yellow colour - it would essentially look like ginger ale.

I'm not sure if a gentlemen would have ordered a horse's neck - that's a really interesting question. That particular cocktail started out as a non-alcoholic drink, but in the 1910s they started to add booze to it until eventually the 'mocktail' version was phased out. I don't know if the non-alcoholic origins would have had any bearing on its perceived masculinity or not, and whether a chap would have ordered one.

I think generally speaking, fellows drank more cocktails back in the 1930s than they do now. These days it seems cocktails are more for the girls while the guys have beer or straight liquor.

If you want to play it safe for the fellow in your book you could order him a Gibson. It's a version of a Martini named after (male) American Illustrator Charles Gibson who found he liked cocktail onions in his drink preferable to the traditional olive. The drink would be clear and not super descriptive but it has a cocktail stick with onions on it - your character could 'pause and thoughtfully crunch his last cocktail onion' or something.

Best of luck with your novel!

The Haute Hoosier said...

I do "fashion movie nights" with my girlfriends and we are about to watch Bonnie & Clyde. They were both shot in the early 30s in Louisiana. I always pair with an appropriate cocktail so I was thinking we could a sazerac, horse's neck or a sherry flip (I have a couple friends who dislike gin). Which of these do you think would be most appropriate?

Anonymous said...

I have heard of a drink called a Baggerty (reference "The Thin Man") but I cannot find a recipe for it.

Aunty Kat said...

Anonymous -- This question has come up before and the consensus is that he is actually referring to a period pronunciation of "Barcardi". He's probably talking about a rum and coke drink. (Oh, we love this movie!)

Jennifer Susannah Devore said...

Cheers! I happened upon your blog whilst searching for the parfait '30s poolside cocktail: fab site, fab fashion tidbits. Me likey! I am now a devoted follower. Mr. Browning would be so proud. "One of us. One of us."

I am Jennifer Susannah Devore, historical-fiction author: usually 18thC. As of late though, having finished a contemporary novel, I find myself floating about the Hotel del Coronado in a new gig I think/hope you might dig following: Hannah Hart, ghost dame of the Hotel Del. Writing cheeky observations from my hotel turret, I'm a 1930s dead gal, horrified by resort-goers in dungarees and women donning baseball caps. Murder! (Hannah's fateful back story and bio in "Meet the Geeks")

Abyssinia, kitten!

Cocktail Codex said...

For hundreds more accurate and historical vintage cocktail recipes in a fun and easy to use index visit

Absolutely*Kate ~ Author / Promoter said...

Joining the historical fiction authors noveling on here . . . praisin' the DIAMOND DAME's worthy claim to fame, and sippin' in mighty sweet too.

I'm taking the Sidecar recipe to a smoky grey-blue haze @ Zelda's Cafe on Thames on a hot, July, Newport night.

Dig your site bigtime Sharon and will let my character Detective Nelle Callahan come to play when "HOLY MOXIE!" hits the streets.

I'll be checkin' out some of the distinctive era-times of some of these fellow authorfolk. My settings swirl from Narragansett Bootleggers into illusions of magic and the OSS putting a halt to Hitler. Real glad I ambled into your joint.

Lady, You got a drink on me anytime you make the RI scene.

~ Absolutely*Kate,
believing in believers
and the shadows of noir

Author and Developmental-Editor, plus promoter/administrator of Noir Nation

mac said...

Does anyone know what a 1940s drink called a "shorty" would be?