Discover 26 Pre-Prohibition cocktails that taste surprisingly fresh despite their advanced ages.
The history of cocktails is long and winding, spanning centuries on both sides of the pond. There were times when drinking was all the rage and other times when the mere act of consuming alcohol could land a drinker in jail.
America’s Prohibition, which lasted from 1920 to 1933, was a particularly restrictive period. However, the preceding years were filled with so many classic libations that the era is fondly referred to as the golden age of cocktails.
Fast forward to the present and the most iconic Pre-Prohibition cocktails haven’t lost any of their luster. Centenarian cocktails like the Old Fashioned and Negroni are more popular today than when they were at the time of their inception.
The aforementioned golden cocktail age shined brightly thanks to creativity and variety.
A compendium of drinks were crafted with liquors like bourbon, gin and rum in bars from Italy to New Orleans. Some Pre-Prohibition cocktails like the Bee’s Knees and Hanky Panky have fanciful names while others like the Aviation and Clover Club feature colors of the rainbow.
You can learn about the best Pre-Prohibition cocktails in books like Jerry Thomas’ Bartenders Guide and Harry Johnson’s Bartenders’ Manual which were originally published in 1862 and 1882 respectively. However, the better approach involves crafting and drinking classic cocktails at home.
These are our favorite Pre-Prohibition cocktail recipes:
26 of the Best Pre-Prohibition Cocktails
The Absinthe Frappe, a classic New Orleans cocktail, is timeless. However, the boozy, green, anise-flavored beverage requires a special palate. Follow our easy Absinthe Frappe recipe and see if you're up to the taste challenge.
Don't be confused by its deep blue color. The Aviation cocktail is a serious cocktail for serious drinkers. Read on to learn how to craft the classic gin cocktail at home in just five minutes.
The Bee's Knees is the cat's meow when it comes to classic cocktails. The three-ingredient gin lemon cocktail is both sophisticated to sip and super easy to make at home.
The Bijou cocktail is a bold and boozy jewel that we covet all year long but especially during the holidays. The opposite of a lightweight, this sparkly amber cocktail adds a festive flair to any drinking session.
A Boulevardier cocktail is a Negroni crafted with bourbon instead of gin. Follow our easy recipe and craft a Boulevardier at home in just five minutes.
Rich and strong, our boozy Brandy Alexander ramps up the cognac to create a better beverage. Craft one at home in just five minutes if you can handle it.
Move over Manhattan! The Bronx isn't just one of New York City's most culturally diverse boroughs. It's also a drink that blends gin with orange juice and two different vermouths. The result is a classic gin cocktail that's as easy to sip as it is to craft.
Brooklyn Cocktail Recipe
Brooklyn isn't just the most populated borough in New York City. It's also a pre-prohibition cocktail that sips like a dream. When you follow our easy Brooklyn cocktail recipe, you'll forget about the other four boroughs before you get to the bottom of the glass.
This Clover Club cocktail is simultaneously sweet and tart. Learn how to make this frothy pre-prohibition cocktail at home in just five minutes.
Corpse Reviver No. 2
The Corpse Reviver No. 2 tastes like a dream despite its nightmare-inducing name. Learn the history behind this ghoulishly delightful gin cocktail and then craft one at home in just five minutes.
Leave any preconceptions about the Daiquiri behind when you follow our easy Bacardi Daiquiri recipe. Cuba's most classic cocktail is a sophisticated summer sipper made with just three ingredients that you probably already have at home.
The Gin Gimlet cocktail is one of the easiest classic cocktails to craft at home. It's also one of the classiest.
More than just a novelty drink imbibed at Christmas parties and on St. Patrick's Day, the Grasshopper cocktail is a sweet pre-prohibition classic with a history rooted in New Orleans. And, yes, it's green. Very green.
Just thinking about the Hanky Panky cocktail makes us smile beyond its giggle-inducing name. This classic cocktail takes the gin martini to exciting levels with two magical dashes of Fernet-Branca. And, like most classic cocktails, it's super easy to craft at home with just a few ingredients.
Don't underestimate the Last Word cocktail. Despite its short ingredient list and pale green hue, the prohibition potable is a sophisticated sipper that deserves a seat at the table.
Crafting a Bourbon Manhattan at home is both easy and rewarding. Follow our recipe and craft the classic cocktail at home in just five minutes. You'll feel like you're at your favorite bar at 1am but without the drama.
You probably aren't familiar with the Martinez unless you're either a cocktail connoisseur or a history buff. But once you try this classic gin drink, you'll surely be a fan. Read on for the full story and then follow our easy Martinez cocktail recipe and craft one at home in just five minutes.
Bourbon Milk Punch is a decadent New Orleans cocktail that's ideal to serve with brunch or any time when you want the good times to roll. Follow our easy Bourbon Milk Punch recipe and craft the creamy dreamy cocktail in just five minutes.
Follow our classic Negroni recipe and learn how to make the sophisticated Italian sipper with just five ingredients including ice. Unique for its deep red color and acerbic flavor, a Campari Negroni packs a punch with equal parts of bitter Campari, dry gin and sweet vermouth.
New York Sour
The New York Sour takes the classic Whiskey Sour to a new level by adding a red wine float. This ruby layer provides a fruity zing plus a stripe of elegance.
A Bourbon Old Fashioned is one of the most classic of classic cocktails. Follow our easy recipe to craft an Old Fashioned at home in just five minutes.
Ramos Gin Fizz
The Ramos Gin Fizz is a quintessential New Orleans cocktail. Learn how to craft the fizzy gin drink at home. Also discover why it's considered royalty in the Louisiana city where the good times roll all year long but especially during Mardi Gras.
The Sazerac may be one of the oldest cocktails in America but the classic New Orleans drink is as relevant today as ever. Follow our Sazerac cocktail recipe and craft the sophisticated sipper at home.
It may be a 'long way to Tipperary' but the journey to craft a Tipperary cocktail is short and sweet. If you follow our easy Tipperary cocktail recipe, you'll be sipping the potent classic cocktail in mere minutes.
The Whiskey Sour ranks as one of the most popular drinks in the world. It's a pleasure to drink and a breeze to craft at home. Follow our Whiskey Sour recipe and join the happy crowd of Whiskey Sour fans.
Proving that you shouldn't judge a cocktail by its name, the White Lady Cocktail is a classic drink that's appropriate for multicultural cocktail connoisseurs. Read on to learn how to craft a White Lady cocktail at home in just five minutes.
Pre-Prohibition Cocktail FAQs
Pre-Prohibition cocktails are cocktails that were invented prior to America’s Prohibition.
America’s Prohibition started in 1920 and ended in 1933.
Iconic Pre-Prohibition cocktails include the Daiquiri, Martini and Old Fashioned.
About the Authors
Daryl & Mindi Hirsch
Saveur Magazine’s BEST TRAVEL BLOG award winners Daryl and Mindi Hirsch share their culinary travel experiences and recipes on the 2foodtrippers website and YouTube. The married Food and Travel content creators live in Lisbon, Portugal.
View the latest Web Story.
Original Publication Date: April 3, 2023