Thursday 29 June 2017
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Classic Prohibition-Era (and Before) Cocktails Every Bartender Should Know

Classic cocktails are making a bit of a comeback.  But it’s more than just a resurgence of true mixology and École du Bar de Montréal bar arts.  Many alcohol artisans are taking things all the way back to the beginning of cocktail mixing reviving recipes from nearly a century ago. Some may keep them classic while others may add a modern twist, but here are just a few classic—Prohibition-era—cocktails that you might fancy on your next out to the local public house.


Just about everybody knows what a Martini is.  Some might even argue that it is the base of many cocktails that became popular through and since the Prohibition.  But the martini is actually based on an older drink which has faded into all but obscurity.  That classic cocktail is the Martinez.  This drink does consist of gin and [sweet] vermouth (and dash of bitters) but adds just a hint of the classic maraschino liqueur—also somewhat obscure, these days—as well.



Some call it a “Prohibition Gem” as rumors allude that it was a favorite of Al Capone and his gang.  Typically made with gin, lime, mint, and simple syrup it is kind of like a Prohibition (New York) Mojito.  Obviously, the Cuban recipe results in a sweet, tangy, and brightly minty cooler; this version is slightly more herbaceous (depending on the gin, of course).


In a simple 3-2-1 ratio of Cognac, Cointreau, and lemon juice, the Sidecar is shaken, strained, and served straightforward.  Rumor has it that the drink is named after an army captain who preferred riding sidecar on his way to the bar.


This 1920s cocktail could have been originally made with bathtub gin, as was commonly the case during the Prohibition.  A tablespoon of honey and some fresh lemon juice and fresh orange juice, then, helped to cut its bitterness. Of course, the craft gin of today’s industry could add a little more complexity to what would have originally been a sweet and tart libation.


Developed in the 19th century—so long before the Prohibition began—this simple whiskey drink earned its name in 1880.  It is one of the half dozen or so drinks that every bartender should know:  a sugar cube muddled with bitters with alcohol (whiskey or brandy, etc.) poured over the top and garnished with a citrus peel (often an orange).