1920s popular cocktails

The Remarkable 1920s: Top Cocktails From The Prohibition Era

 1920s popular cocktails

In 1920, Prohibition was enacted in the United States. This meant that alcohol sales were prohibited, and only a few people could purchase liquor. However, cocktails from this era became a hit among bar-goers because of the drink’s unique flavors and appearance. 

These best cocktails can be hard to replicate because of the time period they come from. However, we can never forget the golden concoctions served 101 years ago and maybe try to make our version at home!

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1. Sidecar

Two glasses of Sidecar cocktail

Prohibition was an exciting and pivotal time for bartenders. One of these famous faces, Harry MacElhone, left America to practice his trade in Europe. He is believed to have invented the Sidecar cocktail at Harry’s New York Bar in Paris while influenced by whiskey sour from New Orleans.

Harry’s original recipe for Sidecar was influenced by Brandy Crusta’s cocktails but with variations in presentation and proportions. 

The Sidecar quickly became a classic cocktail, combining cognac, orange liqueur, and lemon juice, favored by bar patrons in London and Paris. The dry sour also presented an attractive challenge to bartenders for its difficulty in balancing the flavors.

2. Monkey Gland

A glass of Monkey Gland cocktail

The Monkey Gland is a 1920s cocktail that capitalized on the sensational health tale of the monkey gland. In his pursuit of everlasting youth, Dr. Voronoff started a long series of surgeries in which he grafted animal tissue on people. 

The most widely viewed surgery was the graft of monkey testicles to humans to reactivate youthful energy and extend life.

When testosterone was discovered in 1935, the doctor was discredited, but the cocktail remained popular at the height of Prohibition. This classic cocktail is made of orange juice and grenadine, and absinthe. It was first erected in 1923 and became popular at the Ritz.

3. The Bees' Knees

A glass of Bees' Knees

Gin is one of the most popular alcoholic drinks used throughout the 1920s since it was quick and straightforward to make. The process would involve filling a bathtub with alcohol spirit then thinning it out using water or mixing sugar syrup and juniper oil. 

It's reported that this hooch had an infamous foul flavor with risks for blindness and poisoning when consumed too much. Cocktails were made to mask the taste of inferior "bathtub gin," so for a time, all cocktails had similar flavors. The Bee's Knees is based on an essential ingredient: bee honey. 

You can try this variation with high-quality ingredients like good wine and fresh fruit. It will satisfy your palate without compromising tradition!

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4. Boulevardier

A glass of Boulevardier

The Boulvedarier is a whiskey-based variation of the already famous Negroni. The Boulevardier consists of equal parts Campari, Italian vermouth, and Bourbon whisky, which forms perfect balance in this drink as well.

The first recipe for this cocktail was found in the early 19th century by Erskine Gwynne and Harry McElhone. Prohibition, enforced from 1919 to 1933, caused a global shift for these talented drinkers as they left their barstools behind and traveled across nations before finding inspiration on all sorts of drinks.

5. El Presidente

A glass of El Presidente

This is a combination between white rum, dry vermouth, orange curacao, and grenadine. The cocktail’s creation is credited to an American bartender Eddie Woelke who refined and popularized the beverage in Havana. 

The original recipe was in honor of Mario Garcia Menocal, the President of Cuba, and since became a classic.

6. French 75

Two glasses of French75

French 75 is a traditional champagne cocktail made with gin, lemon juice, and grenadine. The drink was named in honor of the field artillery gun that fires at an equivalent punch! This easy-to-make recipe first appeared on American print “Here’s How!,” aimed towards bootleggers during Prohibition.

If you want your taste buds tingling like they were shot by one of these guns, then experts recommend trying out some similar beverages such as French 76 or Mardi Gras Smash recipes too!

7. Ward 8

A glass of Ward 8 cocktail - Image by liquor.com

A glass of Ward 8 cocktail - Image by liquor.com

The Ward 8 cocktail is believed to have been inspired to honor Martin Lomasney's election when the state first elected him at the turn of the 20th century. Known among drinkers in the 1920s for its features, the beverage contained rye whiskey masked by sweet grenadine and orange juice.

8. Mary Pickford

A glass of Mary Pickford

The Mary Pickford is a Prohibition Era cocktail named for Canadian-American film actress Mary Pickford. Made with white rum, fresh pineapple juice, grenadine, and Maraschino liqueur, it is served shaken and chilled often with a maraschino cherry on top for decoration. 

The cocktail was invented by Eddie Woelke or Fred Kaufmann in the 1920s at Hotel Nacional de Cuba during one of the actress’ trips to Havana, wherein she was accompanied by Charlie Chaplin and Douglas Fairbanks. 

9. The South Side

A glass of Southside cocktail

We can't forget the daring gangsters of Chicago's South Side. Supposedly, Al Capone was a fan of this drink - and as they dominated it during prohibition times, one might say that name fits its recipe. 

The South Side combines gin, lime juice, and mint with intense flavors to mask any bathtub-gin (or other cheap liquor). Alternatively, you could try adding some soda water for a Southside Fizz!

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10. Colony Cocktail

A glass of colony cocktail - Image by liquor.com

A glass of colony cocktail - Image by liquor.com

The Colony Cocktail might just be the most famous alcoholic beverage in Manhattan. Have you heard of it? 

It's said to have been served at The Colony bar, which was open through the Prohibition era and became a hotspot for society members and an A-list destination where stars would come when they were performing on Broadway shows or making films nearby.

11. Gin Rickey

A glass of gin rickey

The Gin Rickey is a classic cocktail with a fascinating history. The drink was invented by Joe Rickey, a Democratic lobbyist in the 19th century. 

Also, the name of the cocktail comes from his first name. It's unclear who mixed up this refreshing high-ball, but it remains a favorite cocktail for its simplicity and delicious taste!

12. The Hanky-Panky

A glass of Hanky Panky cocktail liquor.com

A glass of Hanky Panky cocktail liquor.com

In the 1920s, when prohibition was in effect across the United States and alcoholic beverages were not easy to come by, Ada Coleman made a clever cocktail for her customers. 

The Hanky Panky is perfect with a small amount of dry gin mixed with sweet vermouth and Fernet Branca (a bitter Italian liqueur). It’s fitting that this drink would be named after one specific customer who loved it so much that he exclaimed, “By Jove! That is the real hanky-panky."

13. Mint Julep

A glass of Mint Julep

Many different generations have enjoyed this well-known Southern classic since its creation in 1832 at Kentucky Derby time, and it continues to be served at Churchill Downs today! 

The Mint Julep became popular during the 1920s due to Prohibition because of its refreshing and thirst-quenching qualities. 

14. The Singapore Sling

Two glasses of Singapore Sling

The Singapore Sling has a heritage that is rooted in the cocktail movements of the 1910s and 1920s. The Singapore Sling was created at Raffles Hotel in 1915 by bartender Ngiam Tong Boon. 

Originally a lady's drink, the pink hue became iconic and became one of the world-renowned cocktails still being mixed today. But this drink experienced an upswing during what was known as "the Second Golden Age," which took place from 1980-1985.

15. Sazerac

A glass of Sazerac

The Sazerac is considered the first and only American cocktail. It was invented in 1838 by a New Orleans apothecary, who put his unique blend of bitters into Cognac to create this delicious drink. 

In 1870, because there wasn't enough cognac available for making drinks, he replaced it with whiskey instead. Ever since then, people have been shouting about how great they are!

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16. Highball

Two glasses of Highball cocktail

In the late 19th century, when carbonated water became more readily available to English upper-class society, they discovered a delightful combination of mixing brandy and soda. 

This experimentation soon spread not just to scotch but also to other whiskeys like bourbon or rye whiskey as well. The whisky highball is most likely an American invention from around the 1890s. 

But regardless of who invented it first, they ultimately managed to create perfection by improving on existing ideas for these drinks that came before it.

17. The White Lady

A glass of White Lady

Harry McElhone was a bartender at the Ciro Club in London when he created his famous cocktail, The Whiteball Cocktail. It is believed that it originated there sometime during 1919 and used equal parts of white Crème de Menthe, triple sec, and fresh lemon juice to create this refreshing drink.

However, after opening up Harry's New York Bar in Paris in 1923, he adapted the recipe by swapping out Crème de Menthe for gin. This made for an exciting twist, with the cocktail having hints of both citrusy flavor notes from lemons and juniper berry-like aromatics typical found in gin. 

18. Bacardi Cocktail

A glass of Bacardi cocktail

Prohibition may have been repealed in 1933, but much of the bar trade's know-how had already atrophied by then. 

As bartenders pieced together a renewed American cocktail culture following repeal, one relatively obscure twenty-year-old recipe was elevated to grand heights. It became an instant success among patrons immediately after prohibition fizzled on December 5th.

That drink is known as the Bacardi Cocktail. It involves rum with lime juice and grenadine syrup for sweetness that produces a unique pink coloration which explains its popularity during this era. 

19. Hemingway Daiquiri

A glass of Hemingway Daiquiri

Ernest Hemingway, fond of getting himself a drink or two, stopped at the El Floridita bar in Havana, where he took one sip of his favorite drink - the daiquiri. As usual, it was not sweet enough or strong enough, which is how exactly Ernest preferred them. The bartender made him another one with more rum than sugar and named the new recipe after him - a classic Hemingway Daiquiri.

20. Jack Rose

A glass of Jack Rose - Image by liquor.com

A glass of Jack Rose - Image by liquor.com

The Jack Rose is a classic cocktail from the 1920s popularized by many authors throughout history. The drink omits applejack, grenadine, and lemon or lime juice to create an iconic blend of flavors reminiscent of France's finest pastries.

Ernest Hemingway was one notable fan who made the drink famous in his 1926 novel "The Sun Also Rises,” wherein the narrator drinks the cocktail in the Crillon Paris hotel bar. Also, this concoction is the favorite drink of the author John Steinbeck.


Prohibition was a time that has been looked back on with nostalgia and fascination. These 1920s cocktails from this era are well-known for their unique flavors and appearance. 

Have you tried any of these cocktail recipes? Which ones are your favorite?

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