7 Boardwalk Empire/Prohibition Drink Ideas Straight Up Cocktails and Spirits

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

Whoa, take a gander at this calendar!

  • 9/25/11: Boardwalk Empire Premiere, 2nd season
  • 10/2/11: Ken Burns’ Prohibition documentary series debuts on PBS
  • 12/5/11: 78th Anniversary of Repeal Day
With so many Prohibition-themed events on the horizon, it’s high time we break out some rip-roaring, 1920s and 1930s-style beverages, don’t you think?

Well, there’s always bathtub gin. Or moonshine whiskey. But let’s start by taking a look at a couple of well-made old-timey spirits that were enjoyed illicitly during Prohibition – and are still available (on the up-and-up) today.

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)
  • Canadian Whisky – While many folks had to wait out American Prohibition by making do with poor quality bootleg booze, some were lucky enough to get their hands on the “real McCoy” smuggled in from countries where alcohol production was still legal. Whiskies made by our neighbors to the north were especially welcomed. Canadian Club was a popular choice.
  • Applejack – While Prohibition was still in full swing, the venerable applejack distiller Laird & Company was granted a federal license to continue to make their apple-based spirit for medicinal purposes. Bootleg versions of the spirit were popular too as applejack’s all-apple formula made it seem a safer bet than sketchy bathtub gin.
(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

Lots of extra ingredients such as fruit juices, mint leaves, and fruit slices were added to cocktails during Prohibition in order to cover up the taste of bad hooch. Here are a few fruit-filled, Prohibition-era-appropriate recipes from our archives:

  • Old Fashioned – This classic whiskey, sugar, and bitters cocktail is said to have acquired its optional Maraschino and orange slice garnishes during Prohibition.
  • Jack Rose – An applejack, lemon or lime juice, and grenadine cocktail. Possibly named for a notorious gangster (or alternatively, a lovely rose).
  • Southside – This delicious gin-based refresher is made with sugar, mint leaves, lemon juice, and club soda. According to one story it hails from the South Side of Chicago and was created with the hopes of making some bad gin more palatable.
  • Pink Lady – This gin, grenadine, lemon juice, sugar and egg white combo was the Cosmo of its day.
  • Classic Gimlet – Today you might prefer yours instead with vodka – or with fresh lime – but the old-time classic version is gin and Rose’s preserved lime juice. Nothing but.

Do you have any favorite Prohibition-era drinks?

Nora Maynard is a longtime home mixologist and an occasional instructor at NYC’s Astor Center. Her culinary writing has appeared in Food Republic, Leite’s Culinaria, CHOW, and The Business of Food: Encyclopedia of the Food and Drink Industries. She previously covered food and drink in film at The Kitchn in her weekly column, The Celluloid Pantry.

(Images: top image via Canadian Club; all other images Nora Maynard)