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Illustration of men and women at a party drinking cocktails.
“The Circuit Cocktail,” Evening Star (Washington, D.C.), February 24, 1963.

11 Historic Newspaper Cocktails

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Cheers! Here are some vintage cocktail recipes, all of them brought to you by our historic newspaper archive, Chronicling America. 

1. The Insidious Punch of Washington

This drink is one of the oldest ones on the list at more than 135 years old! You can see the recipe here, but generally,  you’ll mix one part sour lemonade, one part claret (or champagne), ½ part rum, and ½ part whiskey. Then, sweeten with a dash of a sweet liquor of your choice. Chill in a bowl of ice or serve from a block of ice. 

2. Black Bird Giggles

The Women’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) was the inspiration for this drink according to this article from the Indianapolis Times. For this one, you’ll need a pint of black currant jam, two pints of water, lime juice, carbonated orange juice, and 1 part gin. Garnish with a slice of lime and a slice of orange.

Five men standing by a bar with the caption “W.C.T.U. Drink Recipe is Concocted into Offering of ‘Stiff’ Proportions.”
“W.C.T.U. Drink Recipe is Concocted into Offering of ‘Stiff”” Indianapolis Times. (Indianapolis, IN), November 15, 1934.

3. Coaching Club

This drink was popular in coaching clubs because it was a perfect pairing for a hot afternoon. Here’s the recipe, along with some other drink recipes including “Vanderbilt’s May Wine.”

4. Suffraget Cocktail

This cocktail recipe, published in Spokane Press, dates all the way back to 1909 and claims to be able to, “…make a man go home and relinquish his position as head of the household to his wife, and accord her with all the privileges he now enjoys as a citizen. The drink contains Clio gin, French and Italian vermouth (in equal parts), a dash of orange bitters, and two strips of lemon peel.

illustration of a man doing dishes with a though bubble containing the cocktail. Headline reads, “Suffraget Cocktail Makes Husband Wash Dishes.”
“Suffraget Cocktail Makes Husband Wash Dishes” The Spokane Press. (Spokane, WA), April 13, 1909.

5. “Original” Syllabub

In this article from the New York Tribune, the author details Augustus Nulle’s search for one of the oldest recipes for a “Syllabub”. 

“In their preparation a bottle of wine and a quarter pound of sugar are mixed in a bowl and cinnamon and lemon peel are added. The bowl is then taken to the cowhouse and the cow is milked into it, until the milk froths on the top. It is recommended to have some cream beat up ready with white of egg and rose water and to lay a spoonful on the top of each when serving.”

Newspaper article with headline, “Waldorfsteward Chases ‘Syllabub’ to its Lair at Last” and subtitle, “Nulle Settles Controversy over Drink Recipe with Aid of Old Magazine.”
“Waldorfsteward Chases ‘Syllabub’ to its Lair at Last” New York Tribune. (New York, NY), January 19, 1917.

6. White Lightning

This drink comes to us because two moonshiners got into a dispute over the ownership of this recipe, leading to its exposure in court. While theoretically a substitute for liquor, two drinks were still allegedly enough to, “make a rabbit spit into a bulldog’s eye.” You can read all about the dispute here.

7. Eggnog

With the holidays coming up, you may want to try out either of these two eggnog recipes from this 1959 issue of Evening Star. In addition to this classic beverage, the article also contains a recipe for “Cafe Brulot.”

Bowl of eggnog with caption “one of the most popular drinks of the Yuletide season is the bowl of creamy eggnog. As a measure of their hospitality, Colonial planters used to station a servant by the side of the road to invite travelers into the house for a ‘sampling.’
“Cafe Brulot is Holiday Treat” Evening Star. (Washington, D.C.), December 24, 1959.

8. Zython

This story was published in April 1919, less than a year before the prohibition era. This explains the Department of Agriculture’s reaction of locking it up since Zython is, “the beer of the early Greeks”. The article goes into the details of the recipe. Secretary Houston’s official sampler is quoted as saying, “It looks like beer… It tastes like beer… By George, it is beer!”

9. Wine of Dandelion

The article with this recipe is yet another published over a century ago– back in 1907. It includes both the option of with or without brandy. There’s also another version of this recipe that uses lemons and oranges for a more citrusy flavor, and comments on the wine’s medicinal uses.

10. Buchanan Punch

This recipe is the alleged original of Admiral Buchanan. The formula for Buchanan Punch was given to Judge Browne by Lieutenant Harry Kimmel of the Navy. You’ll need a quart of brandy, two quarts of Bacardi, two pounds of loaf sugar, and the juice of 12 lemons.

11. Wassail Bowl

This beverage was drunk traditionally as an integral part of wassailing, an ancient English Yuletide drinking ritual. It’s also one of the more complicated recipes on this list, although it’s similar in some ways to a mulled cider. This article goes into detail about the drink’s preparation.

Illustration of people drinking from wassail bowl. Caption
“The Wassail Bowl” The Lexington Dispatch. (Lexington, SC), January 1, 1913.

There you have it! Now go ahead and see what drink recipes you can find, and let us know which of these is your favorite in the comments!

Additional Reading:

In with the Old…Early American Mixology Books: Inside Adams, Library of Congress Blog.

Pre-Prohibition Mixology!: Library of Congress Blog

Discover more:

Search Chronicling America to see what other drink recipes you can find.

*The Chronicling America historic newspapers online collection is a product of the National Digital Newspaper Program and jointly sponsored by the Library and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

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Comments (2)

  1. How could you have missed the very birth of the cocktail, in the in the City of Hudson (NY) newspaper Balance and Columbian Repository? The term was coined by its publisher, Harry Croswell, in “honor” of Thomas Jefferson. The original recipe, for the Bittered Gin Sling, and the story behind it, here:

  2. How could you have missed the very birth of the cocktail, in the City of Hudson (NY) newspaper Balance and Columbian Repository? The term was coined by its publisher, Harry Croswell, in “honor” of Thomas Jefferson. The original recipe, for the Bittered Gin Sling, and the story behind it, here:

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