You don’t have to convince us. There’s nothing more exciting than ringing in the New Year in mid mod fashion. But as you break out your vintage barware and get set to host a gathering for New Year’s Eve, are you making sure you’re serving drinks to match? Just in time for the holiday season Natalie Jacob of the cocktail blog, Arsenic Lace has release Mod Cocktails: Modern Takes on Classic Recipes from the ’40s, ’50s and ’60s chock full of fabulous classic cocktails both famous and infamous for the convivial experiences that often accompany drinks served out of lava bowls and bejeweled glasses.
I love Natalie’s take on beloved classic cocktails like the Snow White from David Embury’s 1948 The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks. Or the Imperial Hotel Fizz from Patrick Gavin Duffy’s 1940 classic cocktail manual which lighten and brighten the recipe. She also includes great trivia about the history of classic drinks and other more obscure mid century cocktails that deserve some more love.
Ready to get mixing? We’ve excerpted 3 our our favorite recipes from Mod Cocktails here just in time for the ball drop. But for great recipes you can serve all year long, be sure to get the book.
Barnum was Right
The name of this drink is supposedly a reference to the saying “A sucker is born every minute,” which is attributed to P. T. Barnum, an American showman of the mid- nineteenth century. This cocktail is fruity, refreshing and wonderfully zesty, a great choice to make if you’re in the mood for something with gin that is sweet and aromatic. It’s a very simple drink that will certainly sneak up on you, since the amount of booze outweighs the amount of citrus in the drink. I first came across this recipe in the 1941 Crosby Gaige’s Cocktail Guide and Ladies’ Companion, but was pleasantly surprised to see it also included in Trader Vic’s Bartender’s Guide, published in 1947.
Makes 1 serving
11⁄2 oz (44 ml) gin
1⁄2 oz (15 ml) fresh lemon juice
1 oz (30 ml) apricot brandy
2 dashes of Angostura bitters
Long lemon twist (see tip), for garnish
In a cocktail shaker, combine the gin, lemon juice, apricot brandy and bitters. Fill with ice and shake vigorously. Strain into a coupe glass. Express the oils from the twist on top of the drink by squeezing it in half and then sliding it around the rim of your glass. To create the twist, twirl the lemon peel around with your fingers and it should hold its curled shape. Then, place the twist in the drink.
Bartender’s tip: Use a citrus peeler to make a long citrus twist. Try to cut the twist with as little white pith as possible to avoid adding a bitter element to your drinks.
Battle of New Orleans
This drink is named after the final battle of the War of 1812 where General Andrew Jackson faced off against British general Edward Pakenham, and admiral Alexander Cochrane. The actual fighting lasted barely thirty minutes and it will take you even less time to make this cocktail, a Sazerac-meets-old-fashioned variation from the 1941 Crosby Gaige’s Cocktail Guide and Ladies’ Companion.
Makes 1 serving
21⁄2 oz (74 ml) bourbon
¼ oz (7 ml) Simple Syrup (page 179)
2 dashes of Peychaud’s bitters
Dash of absinthe
Dash of orange bitters
Long lemon twist, for garnish
If you have a large-format cube of ice, you can build this drink in a glass, then add your large cube and stir 5 or 6 times. If not, in a mixing glass, combine the bourbon, simple syrup, Peychaud’s bitters, absinthe and orange bitters with ice, stir and strain over ice into a double old-fashioned glass. Express the oils from the twist on top of the drink by squeezing it in half and then slide it around the rim of your glass. Then, place the twist in the drink.
I know, easy and tiki don’t normally go together, but this cocktail features just three perfectly balanced ingredients. If you aren’t familiar with rhum agricole, it’s a style of rum traditionally distilled in the French Caribbean Islands, using sugarcane juice rather than molasses (the latter of which is the base for most other styles of rum). This method of distillation yields a funky, vegetal, grassy quality and adds so much flavor and depth to an otherwise sweet drink. Although this drink has tiki origins, it makes the perfect winter daiquiri substitute because of the rich flavor that the maple syrup adds. This is a very easy and delicious drink from the 1947 Trader Vic’s Bartender’s Guide.
Makes 1 serving
2 oz (60 ml) Martinique rhum
1 oz (30 ml) fresh lime juice
3⁄4 oz (22 ml) pure maple syrup
Lime wheel, for garnish
Luxardo cherry, for garnish
In a cocktail shaker, combine the rhum, lime juice and maple syrup, dry shake and pour into a double rocks glass over crushed ice. Top with more crushed ice and garnish with the lime wheel and cherry.
bartender’s tip: Let me note that not all maple syrups are created equal. You’ll want to use a dark Grade A or Grade B maple syrup. Under no circumstances should you use anything maple flavored or that contains high-fructose corn syrup. Real maple syrup is made from the sap of a maple tree, which has been collected in the woods and then cooked down until it’s a superthick and sweet syrup. Fake maple syrup, also known as pancake syrup, is basically maple-flavored sugar. Always try to use the highest-level and freshest ingredients in your cocktails for the best flavor possible.