Photo by Stefan Giesbert. CC BY-SA 4.0
Written by Sarah Spencer
In the spirit of Jazz Fest, here’s a list of cocktails from the Jazz Age that would be fantastic signature drinks for your wedding or other event!
The Jazz Age was from about 1918 to 1930, when jazz music and dance became popular throughout the United States (think flappers and Gatsby). Because the Jazz Age coincided with Prohibition, bartenders had to find creative ways to make foul bathtub hooch palatable. The cocktails from that era are exceptionally flavorful now that we don’t have to rely on homemade booze. You’ll notice that most of these drinks are made from three types of liquor: (1) whiskey, because it’s easy to make in the United States; (2) gin, because it doesn’t require any aging; and (3) rum, because it was easy to smuggle in from Cuba.
Without further ado, here are some easy-to-make cocktails from the Prohibition Era that would be crowd-pleasers at your wedding or next get-together. Enjoy them in their original form, or add a few tweaks to make it unique for you.
Named for the silent film actress known as “America’s Sweetheart,” this cocktail was reportedly created for Mary while she was on a trip to Cuba. It has a tropical feel and goes down with alarming ease. For a slightly less-sweet version, use pomegranate juice in place of the grenadine (which is traditionally pomegranate and sugar).
1.5 oz light rum
1 oz pineapple juice
1 tsp maraschino liqueur
1 tsp grenadine
Garnish with maraschino cherry
Named after a French artillery gun from World War I, this refreshing cocktail gained widespread fame stateside when it was included in The Savoy Cocktail Book in 1930. The recipe in that book called for gin, but most bars here in New Orleans choose to use cognac, as it’s widely believed that it was in the original French version.
2 oz cognac
1 oz fresh lemon juice
1 oz simple syrup (half sugar, half water)
Top with champagne (About 2 ½ oz)
Garnish with a lemon twist
When you hear “bee’s knees,” you can’t help but think of the Roaring Twenties. This cocktail lives up to its name with a floral hint from honey. Several people were skeptical when it was first introduced, but using honey rather than sugar gives it a unique flavor, so it doesn’t just taste like an alcoholic lemonade.
2 oz gin
¾ oz lemon juice
¾ oz honey
Another cocktail with embellishments to mask the bad flavor of illegal whiskey, the mint julep has become a staple of southern drinks and is widely associated with the Kentucky Derby. It can be a little tricky as a wedding cocktail, as the mint is supposed to be muddled with the sugar using a pestle. To streamline the process, you could provide mint-infused bourbon to your bar service (just be sure to talk to them about your preferences far in advance).
2 oz bourbon
2 tsp simple syrup
Garnish with a sprig of mint
The sidecar was the drink to sip on in the upper echelons of Prohibition society. The French ingredients were difficult to smuggle into the US, so only the ritzy upper class could afford to drink it. It still stands as a classic cocktail with complex flavors and a little bit of sweetness.
2 oz cognac
¾ oz Cointreau
¾ oz lemon juice
These cocktails have persevered for nearly a century, and they would be a distinctive feature at your wedding (or bridal shower or bachelorette party or…). Enjoy those Prohibition-era cocktails, and all that Jazz!