This epic list of vintage cocktails will knock your socks off.
Rich with history and a bit of intrigue, check out these 35 vintage cocktails!
There’s a wide selection of modern cocktails we all love and make regularly, but there’s also a broad range of vintage cocktails we’ve forgotten about or have never even heard of.
One of the earliest written records of a cocktail in America can be traced back to a newspaper article from 1806, which defined a cocktail as “a stimulating liquor, composed of spirits of any kind, sugar, water, and bitters.”
This definition remains largely true today, with the addition of other ingredients such as fruit juices, syrups, and liqueurs.
As the country grew, so did its drinking culture, and by the mid-19th century, cocktails had become a staple of American society.
They were widely consumed at bars and taverns and were also served at social gatherings and parties.
The popularity of cocktails continued to rise, and by the late 19th and early 20th centuries, they were an integral part of American culture.
During the Prohibition era of the 1920s and early 1930s, the production and sale of alcohol was banned in the United States.
Despite this, cocktails continued to be enjoyed in speakeasies and other underground establishments.
In fact, the Prohibition era saw a rise in creativity in the world of cocktails, as bartenders sought to make
their drinks as tasty and potent as possible with limited ingredients.
After the repeal of Prohibition in 1933, cocktail culture in America continued to evolve.
New and innovative drinks were created, and the popularity of cocktails reached new heights.
In the post-World War II era, cocktails became associated with sophistication and glamour, and they were widely consumed at fashionable bars and nightclubs.
During the 1950s and 1960s, cocktails gained even more popularity, with classic drinks such as the
Martini, Manhattan, and Old-Fashioned becoming household names.
This was also the era of Tiki culture, with Tiki-themed bars and restaurants serving exotic, tropical cocktails such as Mai Tais and Zombie Punch.
This is a fun list of 35 vintage cocktail recipes that deserve a comeback.
Without further ado, let’s explore the world of forgotten classic cocktails.
This is a list of links to recipes for alcoholic drinks. Please enjoy responsibly. If you didn’t mean to come here, you can close this tab, just for today. No hard feelings.
Bijou is a classic mixed drink with a unique flavor profile.
It’s considered a “pre-Prohibition era” cocktail that likely originated in the late 19th century.
So, if you’re looking for a strong and complex drink with a rich history, consider the Bijou.
3. Hanky Panky
The classic Hanky Panky cocktail is a traditional cocktail created by Ada Coleman, a bartender at the Savoy Hotel in London in the early 1900s.
The drink was named “Hanky Panky” by the actor Charles Hawtrey, a regular customer at the Savoy and said to have exclaimed, “By Jove! This is the real hanky-panky!” after trying the drink.
4. Income Tax
The Income Tax cocktail is another vintage cocktail with a fruity flavor.
Made with two kinds of vermouth and angostura bitters, this one is going to have a bite.
The drink is also a reference to the income tax introduced in Great Britain in the early 20th century.
It was made during the prohibition era to mock this new law.
5. Monkey Gland
The potent Monkey Gland cocktail was created in the 1920s.
The name of the cocktail is a reference to the Monkey Gland operation, a surgical procedure popular in the 1920s.
The Vancouver Cocktail is a sour cocktail named after the city of Vancouver, located in British Columbia, Canada.
Vancouver was a variation of other sour cocktails, such as the gin sour made in the early 20th century.
The Cosmopolitan cocktail, also known as “Cosmo,” became increasingly popular in the 1990s, particularly among women, because it was shown in the well-known HBO series “Sex and the City.”
It’s believed that Cosmopolitan originated in the late 1970s or early 1980s in NYC.
8. Rusty Nail
The strong Rusty Nail cocktail originated in the US in the mid-20th century.
It’s popular among scotch lovers, usually served after dinner.
The Aviation cocktail was first published in the 1916 book “Recipes for Mixed Drinks” by Hugo Ensslin, head bartender of the Hotel Wallick in New York City.
The drink’s name is likely a reference to the new and exciting world of aviation that was developing during that time.
If you like gin with a hint of sweetness, consider trying the Alaska cocktail.
It was made at the turn of the 20th century when the Klondike gold rush was popular, and interest in Alaska was high.
The Caipirinha is a classic Brazilian cocktail, and it’s considered the country’s national cocktail.
It’s a simple yet refreshing drink.
So, consider making this drink if you prefer sweet and sour flavors.
Brazilians have enjoyed Caipirinha for centuries, so it’s worth trying.
13. Corpse Reviver
Corpse Reviver is a group of classic cocktail recipes created in the 19th and early 20th centuries.
They were intended to be a “hair of the dog” drink.
Two of the most popular variations of this cocktail include the Corpse Reviver No. 2 and the Corpse Reviver No. 1. Corpse Reviver No. 1 isn’t common, but it’s still delicious.
If you’re searching for a brunchy pick-me-up, consider Corpse Reviver No. 1.
Death in the Afternoon cocktail is a classic mixed drink created by Ernest Hemingway in the 1930s; it’s made with absinthe and chilled champagne.
It’s typically served in a champagne flute, and the name of the cocktail is a reference to Hemingway’s book “Death in the Afternoon.”
It’s simple yet potent, and it’s not for the faint of heart, as the absinthe brings a powerful and distinct flavor to the drink.
15. Jack Rose
The Jack Rose cocktail is named after a speakeasy called Jack Rose and was created in the early 20th century.
It’s a sour cocktail with a unique and distinct flavor.
If you like fruitier drinks, consider Jack Rose because it’s a sweet variation of other sour cocktails, such as the gin sour.
The Martinez cocktail is considered to be the precursor of the Martini.
The Martinez cocktail originated in the late 19th century, around the same time as the Martini.
The drink originated in the town of Martinez, California, and it’s considered one of the first recorded mixed drinks to use gin as the base spirit.
17. Widow’s Kiss
The Widow’s Kiss is a strong and complex drink.
The drink’s name refers to the “widow’s kiss,” a term used to describe a drink made with Calvados and yellow Chartreuse.
The drink was first published in the 1894 book “The Flowing Bowl” by William Schmidt, and it’s a popular choice among brandy and Chartreuse lovers.
18. Mint Julep
The Mint Julep is a classic cocktail typically associated with the American South.
It’s traditionally served at the Kentucky Derby and other horse racing events because it’s a refreshing cocktail with a unique and distinct flavor.
The drink’s history can be traced back to the 18th century and is considered a symbol of Southern hospitality.
19. Bee’s Knees
The drink’s name refers to the phrase “the bee’s knees,” which means “the best.”
It was created during the prohibition era to mask the taste of bathtub gin.
The use of honey makes this cocktail sweet and refreshing.
It’s a variation of other sour cocktails and makes a great choice for those who like gin and a hint of sweetness.
20. Paper Plane
The Paper Plane cocktail was created by Sam Ross of Attaboy in New York City, and it’s become a popular choice among cocktail enthusiasts.
It’s a slightly bitter yet sweet and refreshing cocktail.
The name Paper Plane is a reference to the simplicity and efficiency of the drink, just like how a paper plane can be easily folded and flown.
21. Vieux Carre
The Vieux Carré cocktail was born in the ‘30s, born at the Hotel Monteleone in New Orleans.
The name Vieux Carré is French for “Old Square” and refers to the French Quarter of NOLA, where the drink was first created.
It’s not as well-known as other vintage cocktails, but it’s becoming more popular among those who appreciate spirit-forward cocktails with a rich history.
22. Moscow Mule
The Moscow Mule cocktail was created in the 1940s.
It’s a refreshing drink often served in a copper mug, which is said to enhance the flavor and keep the beverage cold.
The Moscow Mule was made by John G. Martin, a spirits distributor of Jack Morgan of Cock ‘n’ Bull products, and Rudolph Kunett, the president of Pierre Smirnoff, a vodka distributor.
The cocktail’s name refers to vodka, which is associated with Russia, and ginger beer, which gives the drink a “kick” like a mule.
Here’s our take with the cranberry version.
23. Pimm’s Cup
The Pimm’s Cup cocktail is typically associated with England. Pimm’s No.1 is the base spirit of the Pimm’s Cup, a gin-based liqueur infused with herbs and spices.
It’s a popular summer beverage associated with the Wimbledon Tennis tournament and other British sporting events.
It’s the perfect choice for people who like soft drinks.
24. Last Word
The Last Word cocktail was at the Detroit Athletic Club in the 1920s.
It fell out of popularity for a while.
However, in recent years, it has been rediscovered by cocktail enthusiasts who like gin and a hint of sweetness.
You should try this spirit-forward cocktail if you appreciate vintage cocktails with a rich history.
The Manhattan cocktail has been around since the late 19th century.
The Manhattan mixed drink originated at the Manhattan Club in NYC in the 1870s.
It’s a classic and timeless drink loved by whiskey enthusiasts.
Sam Ross, a bartender at Milk & Honey in NYC, created the Penicillin cocktail.
The drink’s name references Penicillin’s medicinal properties; the ginger and honey can soothe a sore throat.
It’s perfect for people who like whiskey and a hint of sweetness and ginger flavor.
28. Tom Collins
The Tom Collins cocktail was named after a fictional character, “Tom Collins.”
He was the subject of a popular hoax in the US during the late 19th century.
People would tell their friends that “Tom Collins” was negatively talking about them and that they could find him at a nearby bar.
It’s a classic summertime cocktail and is still popular among gin lovers.
The Old Fashioned is one of the oldest classic cocktails that originated in the late 19th century.
It’s a simple yet strong drink and a popular choice among whiskey enthusiasts.
It’s a good choice for those who appreciate vintage cocktail recipes with a rich history.
30. French 75
The popular French 75 cocktail was named after the French 75mm field gun, which was used during WW1, and it’s said that the drink packs as much punch as the gun.
It’s popular among gin and Champagne enthusiasts and makes a good choice for those who like gin and a hint of sweetness with a bubbly finish.
The Paloma cocktail is a tequila-based drink that originated in Mexico.
It’s a refreshing, light, and easy-drinking cocktail, perfect for hot summer days.
The Negroni cocktail is a classic Italian drink.
The origins of the drink date back to the early 20th century, and it’s considered a staple of the cocktail world.
Some variations include using different gin types or substituting sweet vermouth for dry vermouth.
For more Campari cocktails, try this list.
33. Cucumber Gimlet
The Gimlet cocktail originated in the late 19th or early 20th century.
It was first served to British sailors in the Royal Navy to help prevent scurvy.
Sailors had lime juice mixed with gin; this mixture became known as “limey” and, later, the “gimlet.”
This one is our twist: The Cucumber Gimlet.
It’s a classic cocktail and a staple at bars worldwide.
The Americano is one of the oldest cocktails, dating back to the 1800s.
It originated in Italy and was popularized in the US during Prohibition.
And the Americano is a precursor to the Negroni.
35. Whiskey Highball
The Whiskey Highball is a simple yet refreshing cocktail served in a tall glass over ice and garnished with a lemon or lime twist.
The origins of the whiskey highball can be traced back to the late 19th century when whiskey and soda were popular in the U.S.
Want more whiskey options? 42 whiskey cocktail recipes here.
The bottom line
Hopefully, learning about the history of each cocktail above will spark your interest in these cocktails breaking onto the scene long ago.
Vintage cocktail drinks have a long and rich history in America, reflecting the changing tastes and attitudes of the country over the years.
From their humble beginnings in colonial taverns to their current status as a symbol of sophistication and glamour, vintage cocktails have played an important role in American culture and continue to be an integral part of the country’s drinking heritage.
More Cocktail Recipes You’ll Love
- Pumpkin Spice Margarita Recipe
- Honey Cider Cocktail Warmup
- Apple Rum Fizz
- Easy Soju Cape Cod Recipe
- Banana Rum Cocktail: No Blender Required!
- Easy Aperol Spritz
- Pot O’ Gold Mimosa
- Dirty Soju Martini Recipe
- Easy Green Tea Cocktail
- Bijou Cocktail Recipe
- Hanky Panky
- Income Tax
- Monkey Gland
- Rusty Nail
- Corpse Reviver
- Death In The Afternoon
- Jack Rose
- Widow’s Kiss
- Mint Julep
- Bee’s Knees
- Paper Plane
- Vieux Carre
- Moscow Mule
- Pimm’s Cup
- Last Word
- Tom Collins
- French 75
- Cucumber Gimlet
- Whiskey Highball
Is it time for great vintage cocktails?
- We have the epic list for you right here.
- Find your favorite and get your pour on!