Cocktails & Spirits

Booze Like a Bootlegger With These Prohibition-Era Cocktails

Prohibition, the latest documentary by Emmy-award winning Ken Burns that airs October 2 through 4 on PBS, focuses on how the law that tried to prevent drinking was based on an effort to "cling to the myth of an agrarian Jeffersonian America that never really was," Burns told sister publication LA Weekly

In addition to focusing on changing demographics of a younger America, the series features bathtub gin, speakeasies, and the Jake Walk, among other booze-related trends of the time.

Though I'm looking forward to learning some wonky history, talk of booze makes me thirsty, so I hit up Atlantic Monthly columnist, drink historian, and bartender Derek Brown for suggestions of Prohibition-era tipples. 

Interested in more drinks from the era and otherwise? Check out the bartender's bible Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails. Now, on to the list:

5. The Twelve Mile Limit
So named for the international boundary where boozers met bootleggers, this white rum, brandy, and rye cocktail is easy to make and packs a punch: a sharpness, apparently, that's  characteristic of many Prohibition-era drinks.

​4. The Scofflaw
Named for a person who flouts the law, this 1920s era cocktail is often made with syrupy grenadine, though author of Boozehound Jason Wilson suggests green Chartreuse for its herbal characteristics as the swap.

​3. El Presidente
This drink of rum, curacao, vermouth, and grenadine was created by an American at the Jockey Club in Cuba, the playground of rich Americans, notes Brown, as was the trend in the '20s, when bartenders hid their craft or fled abroad.

​2. Lion's Tail
Created in London during Prohibition, this cocktail that showcases bourbon and (delicious) pimento dram, an all-spice flavor that tastes of fall.

​1. Hanky Panky
Created at the Savoy in London, this cocktail, a variation of the sweet martini made with Fernet Branca, likely quenched the thirst of Americans heading overseas during Prohibition.

Any suggestions of local bartenders who would make these drinks? I haven't found any in my travels and would be grateful for a heads-up.

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Food Critic
Contact: Melissa McCart