These classic 1920s cocktails transport you back in time! Most of these tasty Prohibition Era drinks are still popular today.
From the Martini to the Old Fashioned, many of the popular cocktails we drink today were just as en vogue…one hundred years ago. Yes, the most classic of cocktails have stood the test of time! Here at A Couple Cooks, we’ve made over 200+ cocktails. The ones that stand out are almost always the ones with a rich history and a back story.
Here are all the best classic 1920s cocktails that have stood the test of time! These are all drinks that were popular in the 1920s: many of them were invented years before Prohibition Era. They span quite a range: from simple sours to boozy classics. Let’s get mixing!
One of the best 1920s cocktails: the Tom Collins! This nostalgic cocktail is about as classic as it gets. This tall highball drink is a essentially gin sour, a sweet and sour drink made with gin. A cousin of the gin fizz, it’s refreshing and bubbly, impressively loaded with ice in a highball glass.
History: The first recipe for a Tom Collins was published in 1876. It rose to popularity in the 1920s and beyond.
Here’s a classy 1920s cocktail that’s refreshing and sweet tart: the Bees Knees! It’s got a cute 1920’s name and a smooth flavor to match. The unique element? Honey syrup. Making simple syrup with honey instead of refined sugar adds a rich depth to cocktails. Combine it with lemon and gin, and you’ve got a refreshing cocktail that goes down easy.
History: First started to appear in cocktail books in the 1930’s. There’s no clear origin story, but “the bees knees” is a phrase used at the time that means “the best.”
Need a truly great 1920s cocktail? Meet the Southside! It’s minty, fresh, and botanical, made with lemon, lime, and gin. It’s sweetened just enough: crisp, cool and refreshing. It’s perfect for sipping on a cocktail night with friends, or an afternoon cocktail on the patio.
History: The oldest known printed recipe called “Southside” was from 1917.
This easy 1920s cocktail recipe is perfectly balanced, both sweet and tart. Adding an egg white magically creates a frothy foam topping that was characteristic of cocktails of the day. Oh and it takes only 5 minutes to make. It's brilliant and beautiful.
History: The first reference to the drink in print was a cocktail book in 1876. It became very popular in 1900 through 1940s.
Here’s a sophisticated classic 1920s cocktail that steals the show: the Clover Club! This bright pink drink stems back before Prohibition, but it’s just as en vogue today. Sweet raspberry syrup or grenadine combine with zingy lemon and gin to make a perfectly balanced sweet tart drink. The best part: a classic egg white foam gives a creamy body and frothy texture to each sip!
History: The first recipe was recorded in print in 1908. It was named after a gentleman’s club in Philadelphia called the Clover Club, which included prominent lawyers, writers, and politicians.
Here’s one of the very best 1920s cocktails: the Sidecar! This drink is perfectly balanced between sweet and tart, with just the right edge from the boozy Cognac. It’s a complex, layered drink: warm, crisp, dry, rich, and full at the same time.
History: The most common origin story is that it was created around 1918, named after an American army captain stationed in Paris who rode around in a motorcycle sidecar.
Here’s a smooth, citrus forward classic cocktail with a sophisticated vibe: the White Lady! This 1920s cocktail is clear and crisp, with a refreshing flavor and a frothy egg white foam topping. It’s super classy, perfect for a cocktail night or just sipping on the porch.
History: It’s also called a Delilah or Chelsea Sidecar, it’s like a gin version of a Sidecar invented in the 1920's
Here’s one of the most sophisticated and refreshing 1920s cocktails out there: a French 75! It’s got a mysterious name, but it’s made with a few simple ingredients. It’s tangy, bubbly, and a bit botanical, and it makes every occasion more festive.
History: Most sources say it was invented in 1915 at the New York Bar in Paris.
The Old Fashioned is barely a cocktail at all: just lightly sweetened booze seasoned with bitters. But it’s become one of the most famous cocktails there is: possibly because it’s the oldest. This baby dates back to the early 1800’s, before the words classic and cocktail were even said next to each other.
History: It was first documented in the early 1800’s by a New York paper. It was popular in the 1920s, and has remained en vogue ever since.
Here’s a drink that’s classy and complex: the Martinez! This 1920s cocktail is in the spirit-forward cocktail family, a cousin of the Martini and the Manhattan. To us, it’s an improvement on both! There’s so much going on flavor-wise. It’s balanced and just sweet enough, with notes of cherry and cinnamon, and a little spice at the finish.
History: The Martinez is a classic cocktail that dates back to the 1880’s, when it was included in a several cocktail books.
Here’s a sophisticated 1920s cocktail: the Hanky Panky cocktail! It’s complex and nuanced, with a smooth flavor perfect for sipping. The star here is Fernet-Branca, an Italian bitter that adds an herbal punch. The cocktail is perfectly balanced: a little sweet and a little bitter, which makes it irresistible.
History: The Hanky Panky cocktail was invented by a famous woman bartender in the 1920’s named Ada Coleman. When the patron she invented it for tasted it, he exclaimed “By Jove! That is the real hanky panky!”
Here’s a tart, complex and refreshing classic 1920s cocktail for the adventurous drinker: the Hemingway daiquiri! This spin on the Classic Daiquiri was invented in honor of the famous writer himself, Ernest Hemingway. It features sweet grapefruit to balance the acidity of the lime, and maraschino liqueur brings notes of sour cherry and almond.
History: In the 1920s, Ernest Hemingway started making trips to Cuba and fell in love with the Classic Daiquiri. A bar he frequented created this spin in honor of him.
Looking for a classic 1920s cocktail with an Italian vibe? Enter: the Negroni! It’s equal parts refreshing, bitter, and complex: a drink that you’ll want to sit with and savor a while. And doesn’t it look stunning? The bright red of the Campari makes for a stunning jewel-tone statement of a drink.
History: The Negroni was invented back in the 1920’s by a Count Negroni in Florence, Italy, as a spin on the even older Americano.
Here’s a boozy classic cocktail that’s one of the greats: the Sazerac! This Cognac and whiskey cocktail also stars absinthe, which gives a black licorice finish to each sip! This outlawed liquor is now back in good graces (since 2007, at least), a reason to try this famous slow sipper. It’s the official drink of New Orleans and one of the oldest cocktails there is.
History: The exact history of the drink is murky, but it was invented in New Orleans in the mid-1800’s.
Here’s a refreshing way to drink your favorite whiskey: the classic Whiskey Highball! This two-ingredient cocktail originated around the turn of the 20th century and it’s still popular to this day. Why? It’s so easy to make: no cocktail shakers or fancy ingredients required!
History: The whiskey highball was born in the early 1900’s and initially combined Scotch whiskey with soda water, called “scotch and soda.”
Here’s a 1920s cocktail for the adventurous home bartender: the Last Word! This pale green gin sour is a classic cocktail that was all but lost to history. But with the revival of cocktail culture, this one’s come back strong! It’s equal parts sharp, sweet, and sour: full of intrigue and nuance from Maraschino liqueur and Chartreuse.
History: The Last Word drink appeared on menus as early as 1916
Here’s a classic 1920s cocktail that’s come back en vogue: the Aviation! This purple cocktail tastes as great as it looks: it’s sweet tart, with a hint of cherry and a floral nuance that come from maraschino liqueur and crème de violette. It’s a great drink for the adventurous home mixologist who doesn’t mind adding another liqueur or two to their collection.
History: It was created back in the early 1900’s by a bartender at a hotel in New York City (Hotel Wallick).
Looking for a unique 1920s cocktail that will impress everyone? Try the Blood and Sand! It’s one of the few classic cocktails with Scotch from the 1920’s and 30’s. It’s similar to a Manhattan or Martinez, but with with blood orange juice and cherry liqueur. It’s light and semi-sweet, with a balanced and cherry-forward flavor.
History: This cocktail was named after the 1922 silent movie about a bullfighter called Blood and Sand.
What if you’re a Scotch lover and a Manhattan lover? Make the Rob Roy! The Rob Roy drink is a Manhattan cocktail made with Scotch whisky instead of bourbon or rye. This booze-forward drink is the perfect way to enjoy a good Scotch! It’s a retro slow-sipper that’s been around for over a century.
History: The Rob Roy drink was born in 1894, named in honor of the premier of an operetta based on Scottish folk hero Rob Roy MacGregor.
Last up in our 1920s cocktails: the Grasshopper! Turns out, this classic cocktail has more history than you’d expect: it dates back to 1918. Shake this classy, creamy after-dinner drink in a cocktail shaker and strain it into a martini glass. One creamy, mint chocolate sip and you’ll be sold.
History: The Grasshopper was invented in New Orleans in 1918 by the owner of the bar Tujague’s.
Sonja Overhiser is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the best healthy cookbooks of 2018. She’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the food blog A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Sonja seeks to inspire adventurous eating to make the world a better place one bite at a time.
Alex Overhiser is an acclaimed food photographer and author based in Indianapolis. He’s host of the food podcast Small Bites and founder of the recipe website A Couple Cooks. Featured from the TODAY Show to Bon Appetit, Alex is author of Pretty Simple Cooking, named one of the best vegetarian cookbooks by Epicurious.