One group who welcomed Prohibition, aside from those busybody temperance leagues, were the nation’s gangsters, with Chicago’s notorious Al Capone the most famous then as now. Thanks to bootleggers bringing alcohol across the border from Canada and Mexico, along with
Nowadays, we associate ‘the roaring Twenties’ with the golden age of the cocktail, and with good reason. Due to the low quality of the alcohol available, barkeepers made drinks palatable by adding fruit juices, syrups, cream or bitters to mask the roughness of the alcohol. Gin became the most popular base for cocktails, due to its comparative ease of production; unlike, say, scotch, gin did not need aging or complicated processing techniques, hence the expression ‘bathtub gin.’
Many of the cocktails devised during the twenties (or earlier; cocktails go back at least as far as the 1860s) remain popular to this day, whereas others remain consigned, for safety’s sake, in aging cocktail books such as The Savoy Cocktail Book (1930) by Harry Craddock or The Standard Bartender’s Guide (1934) by Patrick Gavin Duffy, two of the most renowned bartenders of their day. Duffy in particular warned against the following ‘unwholesome concoctions,’ the runts of the Prohibition litter, a time when people were just happy to drink something thrown together and served with a maraschino cherry by a Clara Bow lookalike in some dive downtown. Try these at your peril:
Alexander’s Sister Cocktail
Ingredients: 1/3 Gin, 1/3 Cream, 1/3 Creme de Menthe. Shake well and strain.
I don’t know who Alexander’s sister is, but she must false teeth and the stomach of rhinoceros to survive much of her eponymous cocktail. The only hope for anyone after a night with Alexander’s Sister, so to speak, is the mint in the Creme de Menthe somehow overpowers the
Corpse Reviver No. 1
Ingredients: ¼ Italian Vermouth, ¼ Apple Brandy (such as Calvados), ½ Brandy. Stir well in ice and strain into glass.
Unbelievably, this cocktail has its origins in the days of ‘medicinal’ alcohol, with Corpse Reviver No. 1 intended as a hangover cure, though if you can face drinking one if you’re already reeling from your nocturnal activities you’re a better, though possibly much worse, man than I. The recipe for the distantly related Corpse Reviver no.2 cannot be repeated here, as mixing those ingredients together has in the past caused the demon Gozer to enter our reality from its godforsaken ethereal netherworld.
Ingredients: 2 dashes Absinthe, 1/3 French Vermouth, 2/3 Dry Gin, 1 Sprig of Fresh Mint. Shake well in ice and strain.
Fascinating? After a couple of these, you’ll be fascinating, all right. And that sprig of mint isn’t
Mule Hind Leg
Ingredients: 1/5 Gin, 1/5 Benedictine, 1/5 Applejack, 1/5 Maple Syrup, 1/5 Apricot Brandy. Stir well in ice and strain.
Another cocktail to receive Erik Ellestrad’s seal of disapproval, one imagines the Mule Hind Leg owes existence to some guy from the Bronx called Mugsy who had to fill in for Sam Kowalski, usual bartender at the Nudge-Nudge ‘Tea Rooms’ on 57th and 10th, after Sam, the big lug, accidentally inhaled the fumes of a Fascinator cocktail. Mugsy, his nose broken after a – hey, who wants to know, anyhow? Are you drinking or aren’t ya? That’s more like it. Now, what are ya having? A Manhattan? Sure thing boss. One for the dame too? OK, now I’s gotta go out back and fix this up. Now, how the hell d’ya make a Manhattan? I guess it oughta take some gin. Sure, in it goes. And some of dis fancy French hooch. Deo Optimo Maximo, like Father O’Reilly always says. And this one got a picture of apples on the bottle, and momma always said apples is good for ya. Durrrr...apricot brandy,
Ingredients: 1/3 Gin, 1/3 Brandy, 1/3 Whiskey. Shake well in ice and strain.
Good God, just typing out those words made me feel sad. Honestly, if you’re going to try the Thunderclap, you might as well head to the liquor section of your local 7-11, take the Balfour Street Dry, Landy VS and Four Roses off the shelf, pour it all into a bucket, drink and wait for the police to arrive. It’d be the best thing all round, I think.