8 Prohibition Era Favourite Cocktails

8 Prohibition Era Favourite Cocktails

The Prohibition Era: perhaps the darkest time in the world’s history… or at least, in the history of anyone who enjoys a nice drink on a Friday night.

From 1920 to 1933, there was a nationwide constitutional ban in the United States on all things related to alcohol – production, importation, and (most horrifically) consumption.

Thankfully for the predecessors of my own country, Canada experienced a shorter ban on alcohol that lasted from the mid-1910s until the early- to mid-1920s (depending on the province you look at).

Despite these “prohibitions” on alcohol, there were many places in which one was still able to acquire and consume the intoxicating substance, including drinking in speakeasies that offered bootleg alcohol.

It wasn’t just straight liquor that people drank during this time, but also a variety of delectable cocktails.

In fact, many of these cocktails were gin-based, which is perhaps why I have always had an admiration for the Roaring Twenties decade.

Who wouldn’t love an entire ten years filled with gin-based cocktails while wearing vibrant clothing adorned in a variety of embellishments?

What the government didn’t know during this time didn’t hurt it, it seemed, as the ban was eventually lifted.

So I bet now you’re thinking that you want to create the energy-filled atmosphere of a speakeasy in the comfort of your own home. Perhaps even break out a flapper dress or dapper pageboy hat.

Why not try it out and whip up one of these eight Prohibition Era favourites at your next get-together?

Mary Pickford

Named after the famous 1920s silent film actress – who actually was born and raised in my city of Toronto, Canada – this cocktail is believed to have originated from the country of Cuba, when large amounts of rum were smuggled into the United States during the Prohibition.


  • 1½ oz white rum
  • 1½ oz pineapple juice
  • 1 tsp grenadine
  • 6 drops maraschino liqueur


  • Add all ingredients into a cocktail shaker filled with ice and mix thoroughly
  • Strain into a chilled cocktail glass

Tom Collins

Popular during the Prohibition due to a surge in the illegal production of gin, the Tom Collins was enjoyed by many Americans at this time because it used soda water and not another alcohol that would be more difficult to come by (i.e., champagne).

This drink is good for you if you enjoy a bitter and sour flavour combination in your drinks.


  • 1½ oz gin
  • ? oz lemon juice
  • ? oz simple syrup
  • Lemon pinwheel (for garnish)
  • Cherry (for garnish)


  • Add all ingredients to a cocktail shaker filled with ice and mix well
  • Strain into a highball glass filled with ice
  • Garnish with a pinwheel of lemon and a cherry (if desired)

The Sidecar

This was a drink that was enjoyed most often by America’s social elite, as it utilised foreign spirits and liquors that were quite difficult to come by for the average citizen.

However, in an age where alcohol consumption is not illegal and we can pop into our local liquor store to acquire these ingredients, we can thankfully mix this deliciously “elite” drink at home in 2016 whenever we desire.


  • 1½ oz VS or VSOP cognac
  • ¾ oz Cointreau
  • ¾ oz fresh lemon juice
  • Sugar
  • An orange peel


  • Rim a cocktail glass with sugar a few minutes before beginning to mix the drink to ensure that the sugar has properly dried
  • Mix all liquid ingredients thoroughly in a cocktail shaker filled with ice
  • Strain carefully into the glass
  • Garnish with an orange peel

Gin Rickey

The supposed favourite drink of one of my favourite writers, Mr. F. Scott Fitzgerald, the Gin Rickey also uses my favourite spirit: gin!

Originally, this drink was mixed with whiskey instead, but it was switched out for gin during the Prohibition due to the fact that whiskey requires an aging process that would be near impossible to do properly in a time when the production of alcohol was banned.


  • 1½ oz gin
  • 1 lime, halved
  • Club soda


  • Fill a highball glass with ice
  • Add in gin and the juice from the halved limes, dropping the remnants of the limes into the glass
  • Top off with club soda

The Last Word

Originally created at the Detroit Athletic Club during the early years of the Prohibition, this drink had lost its popularity after the onset of the Second World War, but is currently growing in popularity once again in the modern day.


  • ¾ oz gin
  • ¾ oz maraschino liquor
  • ¾ oz green chartreuse
  • ¾ oz fresh lime juice


  • Mix well all ingredients in a cocktail shaker filled with ice
  • Double-strain into a chilled cocktail glass

The Bee’s Knees

The Bee's Knees. #buffloimbibes #cocktails #gin #beesknees

A photo posted by Sarah Orsborn (@erniebufflo) on

Firstly, this is another gin-based cocktail that is sweet in flavour and was a favourite of the Prohibition Era, as any harsher flavours introduced by bootleg liquor were masked by the lighter flavours of the other ingredients mixed in it.

Secondly, it needs to be stated that I think “the bee’s knees” is a great saying and I feel that it should come back as a way to describe something that’s really great or cool.


  • 2 oz gin
  • ¾ oz fresh lemon juice
  • ½ oz honey syrup
  • Lemon peel twist (for garnish)


  • Mix all liquid ingredients thoroughly in a cocktail shaker filled with ice
  • Strain into a chilled cocktail glass
  • Garnish with a twist of lemon peel


This drink was created by Hugo Ensslin, the head bartender in New York’s Hotel Wallick not long before the 1920s began.

The cocktail continued to maintain its popularity well into the period of America’s Prohibition Era.


  • 2¼ oz gin
  • ¾ oz maraschino liqueur
  • ¾ oz fresh lemon juice


  • Mix all liquid ingredients thoroughly in a cocktail shaker filled with ice
  • Strain into a chilled cocktail class

White Lady

This drink was also first mixed up not long before the Prohibition Era officially began and was rather popular during the alcohol-free period.

At the time, it was frequently made with bathtub gin (which is amateur made liquor in improper conditions…pretty much, it was poorly made alcohol).


  • 2 oz gin
  • ½ oz Cointreau
  • ½ oz fresh lemon juice
  • 1 fresh egg white


  • Add all ingredients to a cocktail shaker filled with ice and mix well
  • Strain into a chilled cocktail glass

Despite the fact that we now can all have a cocktail without the fear of experiencing legal repercussions for doing so, there is something that seems so exhilarating about the Roaring Twenties and the exciting environments they often lived in.

In a time that was dominated by financial stability from a flourishing stock market, a plethora or talented entertainers, and gorgeous fashions, it’s hard to not want to dress up and pretend that we’re still living in those times.

Instead of turning the clocks back over 90 years however, why not just mix one of these drinks instead?

Be sure to share the photos of your Cocktail Creations with us on Instagram or Twitter!

Which was your favourite Prohibition Era cocktail from today’s article? Let us know.

Drink up, and enjoy responsibly!

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