These are the best 1920s cocktails to revive this weekend

From Al Capone’s favourite cocktail to a drink Hemingway held dear, these are the forgotten drinks worth mixing…

Necessity, they say, is the mother of invention. Prohibition, then, was the mother of some truly great cocktails. In the 1920s, when American powers banned the manufacture and sale of alcohol, drink aficionados were forced underground; compelled to create moonshine, bathtub gin and all other manner of second-rate spirits away from the watchful eyes of the law.

But it wasn’t all bad. The contraband spirits may have left a bad taste in drinkers’ mouths, but the cocktails they created to mask the counterfeit liquors soon became the stuff of legend. Bold, flavourful and fierce, they swept the speakeasies of the era — but have since been largely forgotten. So, to raise a glass to the bootleggers of the old roaring twenties, here are the best vintage cocktails to revive…

Get things up-and-running with a Sidecar

Let’s start with a drink not wholly forgotten. The Sidecar — named, as you may expect, for the motorcycle attachment — was invented around the end of World War I. The first recipes, however, cropped up as the 1920s took hold. It’s similar to a sour, but drier; and created with cognac, lemon juice and triple sec.

  1. Fill a shake with ice
  2. Add 50ml Cognac (we like Hennessy), 15ml Cointreau and 15ml Lemon Juice
  3. Shake vigorously for 30 seconds
  4. Strain into a cocktail glass
  5. Garnish with Orange Zest

Keep your serves simple with a Gin Rickey

The ‘Rickey’ has been around longer than the ‘Gin Rickey’. Originally blended with bourbon, this highball cocktail was originally created in Washington D.C. for Democratic lobbyist Colonel Joe Rickey. But it didn’t become a worldwide sensation until it was mixed with gin — and is well worth a shake during the ‘ginnaissance’ we’re enjoying today.

  1. Fill a glass with ice and squeeze in two Lime Wedges
  2. Add 40ml of London Dry Gin (we like Sipsmith)
  3. Top up with Sparkling Water
  4. Stir thoroughly and serve

Take the Rob Roy back to its roots with Scotch whisky

Created in conjunction with the New York premiere of an opera, named Rob Roy, this eponymous cocktail has little in common with the Scottish folk hero — save for the nationality of its whisky. Blended with Scotch and vermouth, the Rob Roy found underground fame in the 1920s; one of the era’s most blended whisky cocktails, alongside the Manhattan.

  1. Fill a mixing glass with ice cubes
  2. Pour in 50ml of blended Scotch Whisky (such as Sir Edward’s)
  3. Add 20ml of Red Vermouth
  4. Shake in a couple of drops of Angostura Bitters
  5. Stir thoroughly with a bar spoon
  6. Strain into a cocktail glass

Channel your inner bootlegger with a Southside

Notoriously, this was Al Capone’s cocktail of choice. It takes its name from the South Side district of Chicago, Illinois — where the gangster operated. The bootlegged gin imported by the mafia was said to be so rough and undrinkable that it required sweetening. Lots of sugar later, and this mint-adorned, mob-approved cocktail was born.

  1. Fill a shaker with ice
  2. Add 60ml of Gin (we suggest the bold, brash Batchers’ Gin from Litchfield Distillery)
  3. Pour in 20ml of Lemon Juice and 20ml of Simple Syrup
  4. Throw in 5 fresh Mint Leaves
  5. Shake for 15 seconds
  6. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass
  7. Garnish with a mint leaf

Take a page from Hemingway’s book with a Jack Rose

Notably for its appearance in Ernest Hemingway’s seminal 1926 novel, The Sun Also Rises, the Jack Rose was a popular 1920s cocktail created using apple brandy, citrus juice and grenadine. And its literary credentials didn’t end there; Of Mice and Men author John Steinbeck also famously cited the cocktail among his favourite drinks.

  1. Fill a shake with ice
  2. Pour in 40ml of Apple Brandy (Laird’s Straight is best)
  3. Add 15 ml of Grenadine and 25ml Lemon Juice
  4. Shake until chilled
  5. Strain into a coupe glass
  6. Garnish with a single cherry

Try something exotic with the Pegu Club Cocktail

Sneaking in just before the 1930s rolled around, this flavourful cocktail was first mixed in Burma’s Pegu Club. Ordered primarily by British government men and military officials, it was documented by bartender Harry MacElhone in the 1927 edition of his mixologists’ bible, Barflies and Cocktails.

  1. Fill a shake with crushed ice
  2. Pour in 45 ml of Dry Gin (we like Monkey 47)
  3. Add 25 ml Cointreau and 1tsp Lime Juice
  4. Shake in a dash of Angostura Orange Bitters
  5. Shake until chilled and strain into glass
  6. Garnish with a wheel of lime

Champion an underdog with The Last Word

Finally, fittingly, we come to The Last Word. Another Prohibition cocktail, this vivid drink was first served at the Detroit Athletic Club. It went decades without being mixed, before seeing a resurgence in Seattle in 2004 — a bump in gin-fuelled popularity we’re keen to keep going. It’s pungent, punchy, and sharp, sweet and sour all at once.

  1. Fill a shake with ice
  2. Pour in 20ml of Dry Gin (we’d opt for Chase)
  3. Add 20ml of Green Chartreuse
  4. Add 20ml of Lime Juice, and 20ml of Maraschino Liqueur
  5. Shake until well chilled
  6. Strain into a chilled coupe glass

Need a new gin for your cocktails? Here are the 21 best bottles for 2021…

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