Here’s 4 Prohibition-era cocktails to celebrate Repeal Day, December 5th

A fake saloon set up for tourists on thier way to Canada in the 1920s. Visitors would pose for photos to make them look like they were ‘Scofflaws’…

Today is December 5th, and that means that in the USA it’s Repeal Day. On this day 84 years ago the so-called noble experiment — Prohibition — ended in the US, when the 21st Amendment was ratified. That amendment repealed the 18th Amendment and once again opened taverns and inns and bars across the country.

But cocktailing didn’t stop with a change in the law, and there’s some worthy Prohibition-era cocktails to be had. New classics were invented both at home in the USA (albeit, a few miles out to shore away from the long arm of the law), in Cuba, and across the pond in Europe.

In honour of the USA coming to its collective spiritous senses — and perhaps as a panacea against their present day maladies — we’ll be raising a glass with these four Prohibition-era cocktails, and hoping the world doesn’t go to hell in a hand basket just yet.

Monkey Gland

  • 60ml dry gin
  • 60ml fresh orange juice
  • 3 dashes of grenadine
  • 3 dashes of absinthe

Shake and strain into a chilled coupette.

Like with the Monkey Gland. Though the recipe was published in MacElhone’s 1922 book, Harry’s ABC of Mixing Cocktails, a later article in the Washington Post credits “Frank, the noted concocter behind the bar of the Ritz” with creating the drink (we assume that it was Frank Meier, who served there between 1921 and 1947). Search out Darcy’s O’Neill’s Art of Drink blog for more info.

Repeal Day – The Scofflaw Cocktail

The Scofflaw Cocktail.

The Scofflaw Cocktail

  • 45ml straight rye whiskey
  • 30ml dry vermouth
  • 20ml lemon juice
  • 20ml real pomegranate grenadine
  • Dash of orange bitters

Add all ingredients into a mixing glass. Shake and strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with a lemon twist. (Recipe adapted from Harry’s ABC of Mixing Cocktails.)

The Scofflaw is credited to Harry’s New York Bar, Paris from 1924, and was a term coined in a competition to describe those wicked people that frequented speakeasies — one, the competition organiser hoped expressed “the idea of lawless drinker, menace, scoffer, bad citizen, or whatnot, with the biting power of ’scab’ or slacker.”

Repeal Day _ the 12 Mile Limit

The 12 Mile Limit. Credit: Rob Palmer

Twelve Mile Limit

  • 30ml rum
  • 15ml brandy
  • 15ml rye whiskey
  • 15ml lemon juice
  • 15ml Monin Grenadine

Shake all ingredients with and strain into coupette.

The story of the 12 Mile Limit is far from clear-cut. What we do know is that it was created by a journalist called Thomas Franklin Fairfax Millard. But if it weren’t for Ted Haigh’s Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails, we might not know much about this delicious drink.

Not to be confused with the similarly named Twelve Miles Out that appears in the Savoy Cocktail Book (which combines equal parts rum, Swedish Punsch and Calvados), the 12 Mile Limit looks very much like the Three Miller Cocktail (also described in The Savoy), that was depicted in Harry McElhone’s Barflies and Cocktails as a drink called the Three Miles Out.

Named for the three nautical mile limit that demarcated the extent of US jurisdiction, The Three Miles Out combines rum, brandy, lemon juice and grenadine. Faced with the great downer of Prohibition, revellers hopped aboard boats and took their parties three miles offshore — and out of the reach of the Feds.

Well, they did until the government tired of people thumbing their noses at Prohibition, offshore but within sight of (very) dry land. The extraordinary thing here is that because of these revellers, the US pushed other nations to accept a change to maritime borders from three miles to 12 miles. Powers like Britain and France agreed to a change, and the US may have thought the revellers were pulled back within their reach; but it only accomplished pushing the Prohibition party further out to sea — to beyond the 12 mile limit.

Mary Pickford

  • 45ml white rum
  • 30ml pineapple juice
  • 3 dashes maraschino liqueur
  • 3 dashes real pomegranate grenadine

Shake all ingredients and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

The Mary Pickford cocktail is a Prohibition classic first appearing in the 1920s at the height of her fame. The cocktail makes its way into in print in the English The Savoy Cocktail Book in 1930.

The concoction itself claims Cuban origin with most citing the famous cantinero Constantino Ribalaigua from Floridita in Havana as the creator. The use of pineapple would likely place the drink in tropical climes and the dashes of maraschino do channel another Ribalaigua classic – the Papa Doble. However, the La Florida Cocktail Book (from the Floridita bar) which was reprinted in 1935, with recipes listed in Spanish and English both, strangely omits the maraschino liqueur found in the Savoy Hotel recipe from 1930. Of course the La Florida Cocktail Book is rife with errors and misprints most noticeably the repeated mis-translation of limón verde (lime) simply as ‘lemon’.