Celebrate the 80th Anniversary of Prohibition's Repeal With These Prohibition-Era Cocktails

Photo courtesy Distilled Spirits Council of the United States
It may have taken the rest of the country until December to repeal Prohibition, but here in Texas we did it on November 24.
November 24, 1933, was a really good day.

After 13 years of being unable to sell, produce, import or transport alcohol, thanks to the Anti-Saloon League and the passage of the 18th Amendment, Texas approved ratification of the 21st Amendment, ending Prohibition. Even though few drinkers had ceased to imbibe as a result of Prohibition, its repeal spawned wild, raging parties in the streets and helped revitalize the defunct liquor, wine and beer companies that had once thrived in the U.S.

If you liked a good, stiff, legal drink at the end of a long day, November 24 might as well have been the Fourth of July.

Eighty years later, the notion of drinking being outlawed is foreign to most of us, but the effects of Prohibition are still enjoyed every day. And by that, I mean the awesome cocktails invented by law-flouting party animals while the 18th Amendment was still going strong. Many of today's favorite cocktails were created by sneaky drinkers hoping to mask the taste of bathtub gin or really bring out the flavors in unlawfully imported whiskey.

This Sunday, the 24th, salute these brave innovators by re-creating some of their beloved recipes and rejoice in the fact that drinking is no longer outlawed. Unless you do it out in the street. That's still illegal.

Photo by Krista
The Southside is a classic Prohibition-era gin cocktail.
Many cocktails made during Prohibition were based on gin, because it was relatively simple to produce (giving rise to the term "bathtub gin") and because the strong juniper-berry flavor tended to mask how truly awful homemade gin was. Cocktails themselves grew in popularity during Prohibition for the same reason: Something was needed to dilute or cover up the taste of really bad booze.

Enter the Southside, a simple cocktail made with gin, citrus, sugar and mint (all of which make that gnarly gin a little more palatable) that was supposedly invented on the south side of Chicago in the 1920s. It's still a favorite summer beverage, and that's because it's cool, crisp and refreshing.

This recipe comes from the 21 Club in New York City:
2 ounces gin
juice of one lemon
2 teaspoons of granulated sugar
several fresh mint leaves

Place ingredients in a cocktail shaker and shake vigorously to bruise the mint leaves. Strain into a chilled collins glass filled with ice. Garnish with fresh mint.

Photo by Gary Wood
The French 75 combines gin and Champagne for a real kick.
French 75
This classy drink was invented in 1915 (so a little before Prohibition) at Harry's New York Bar in Paris. It's so named because people thought it was so strong that it felt like being shot with a French 75mm field gun. The drink became popular in America thanks to the Stork Club in New York.

This recipe is from the Savoy Book of Cocktails, which was published in 1930:
2 jiggers gin
1 part lemon juice
a spoonful of powdered sugar
cracked ice

Stir first four ingredients in a tall glass, then fill with Champagne.

Photo by Evan Swigart
The sidecar is a Parisian drink that became popular in America during Prohibition.
The Ritz Hotel in Paris claims to have invented this drink around the end of World War II, but Buck's Club in London also purports to have created it. The first recipes appeared in 1922, in Harry MacElhone's (of Harry's New York Bar) Harry's ABC of Mixing Cocktails.

Here's the original recipe:
1 ounce Cointreau
1 ounce brandy
1 ounce lemon juice

Shake with ice and strain into a cocktail glass.

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