After 13 long and hard years, Prohibition finally ended on December 5, 1933. Americans across the country ecstatically celebrated its repeal. It was once again legal to make, transport and, of course, consume alcohol! (This was particularly important, since, contrary to popular belief about speakeasies and bootleggers, people drank pretty terribly during the dry period.)
Fast-forward to today and we’ve seen all kinds of mixological trends come and go since the end of the Great Experiment, from the rise and fall (and rise again) of tiki drinks and the great popularity of vodka concoctions to the revival of lost pre-Prohibition classics.
So what better way to celebrate the anniversary of Repeal Day than fixing a few of the most popular cocktails from the past decades of legal drinking? Bottoms up!
This fantastic Scotch cocktail first appeared in print in Harry Craddock’s 1930 The Savoy Cocktail Book and was most likely named for the eponymous Rudolph Valentino movie, one of the biggest box-office hits of 1922. Despite its moniker, it’s quite a delicious mix of whisky, orange juice, sweet vermouth and cherry brandy.
During the 1930s and ‘40s, a tropical fever swept California and spread across the rest of the country—a fever for tiki drinks, that is. No, we’re not talking about neon-colored, tooth-achingly sweet headaches in a glass. Back in the day, these faux-Polynesian concoctions were made with fresh fruit juices, homemade syrups and premium spirits, usually rum. One of the fathers of this movement was legendary barman Victor Bergeron who founded the chain of Trader Vic's bars now located around the world. He also created the Mai Tai, whose original recipe called for aged rum, orange Curaçao, orgeat syrup, homemade rock candy syrup and fresh lime juice.
Forget the Martini; James Bond’s first signature drink was this simple and delicious three-ingredient cocktail that appears in Ian Fleming’s 1953 novel Casino Royale. The smooth-talking, debonair secret agent asks for “three measures of Gordon’s, one of vodka, half a measure of Kina Lillet. Shake it over ice and add a thin slice of lemon peel.” (Today the Vesper is usually made with Lillet Blanc, since Kina Lillet is no longer produced.) What better way to capture the elegance of mid-century modernism than with this cocktail?
What cocktail goes best with bell-bottoms and disco? The rich and creamy Brandy Alexander, of course. Award-winning writer and Liquor.com advisory board member Gary Regan remembers that it was a very popular order at the Upper East Side bar he worked at in New York during the ‘70s. So mix up this tasty nightcap calling for brandy, crème de cacao and cream.
If inclusion in Tom Cruise’s epic spoken-word performance in the 1980s film Cocktail didn’t solidify this drink’s place in history, we don’t know what will. It was one of the many provocatively named cocktails born in the 1980s and is still available in bars across the country today. The combination of vodka, peach schnapps, orange and cranberry juices and Chambord is tall, fruity and harkens back to an era of shoulder pads and feathered hair.
There’s no underestimating the popularity of the Cosmopolitan in the 1990s. It didn’t hurt that Carrie Bradshaw and her friends were drinking them by the dozens during Sex & the City’s run on HBO. So put on some Lauryn Hill and then mix up one of these vodka, cranberry, lime and Cointreau creations.
The 2000s were a fantastic time for cocktail-lovers around the globe. Thanks to people like master mixologist and Liquor.com advisory board member Dale DeGroff, the craft of bartending was reborn. The New Orleans classic Vieux Carré (which you can watch DeGroff mix up in our How to Cocktail video) is just one of the many drinks that were rediscovered by drinkers and bartenders during the decade. Toast the return of craft cocktails by fixing a Vieux Carré tonight.
A familiarity with century-old recipes like the Sherry Cobbler and the Mint Julep have paved the way for new spins on classics in recent years. One of the most popular is the Negroni Sbagliato, which is a punch-sized, bubbly version of the historic aperitif, the Negroni. Best of all, the mix of sparkling wine, Campari and sweet vermouth serves a thirsty crowd. Perfect for a Repeal Day party!