A Sip of History

Golden Age of Cocktails – Drink like it’s the 1930’s

The 1930’s was a difficult period with the cloud of the depression hanging over Britain:  poverty, mass unemployment, rows of shabby housing was rife, but on the other side of the coin, their was prosperity – new washing machines, automobiles, electricity and cinemas.

In 1929, the Wall Street Crash plunged the USA into economic depression. The Americans were justifiably restless and uneasy, and so they called in their loans to other countries and put up customs barriers to stop imports of foreign goods. This in turn created a depression across the rest of the world.

Unemployment in Britain rose to 2.5 million in 1933. The worst hit were the areas of heavy industry (eg coal, iron, steel, shipbuilding) in Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales and the north of England. These industries were already struggling because they had not modernised after the war and had been badly affected by competition from other countries, however, in the south-east of England where new light industries such as chemicals, electrical goods and automobiles had been developed, families were affluent.

The 1930’s was a time of mixed fortunes, but it is certain that the 30’s still saw people well turned out. Men still dressed smartly sporting fedoras and double-breasted overcoats. For women fur was in along with floral patterns and shoulder pads. There was a soft feminine, glamour about the styling for women’s fashion in this period was influenced by the silver screen and makeup was becoming more refined. So amongst the drudgery of the depression was the escapism of Hollywood with beautiful women gracing the screen such as Mae West, Jean Harlow, Constance Bennett and Carole Lombard.

So let’s escape the Great Depression with a stylish 1930’s cocktail or two and dream of the Hollywood love.


The French 75

 How can you go wrong with Champagne?  The Savoy Cocktail Book, published a recipe in 1930 for this classic cocktail that calls for gin, lemon juice, simple syrup and some bubbles. A later recipe replaces the gin with Cognac, but I’m going to say that I like to stick with tradition and so it’s gin all the way for me.

This drink is an elegant tapestry of flavour, its bubbles are definite mood booster and though its origins are somewhat muddled its taste is clearly divine. Whilst The Savoy Cocktail Book had no part in inventing the drink, it certainly had a part in popularising it. Once printed, it spread across the Atlantic and was served up in New York’s infamous Stork Club making it iconic. The drink was even featured in the 1942 film Casablanca and will forever remain a gin palace darling.

How to make a French 75:

45ml Gin  (I recommend a good botanical infused blend)

15ml fresh lemon juice

7.5ml simple sugar syrup


Add gin, lemon juice and syrup to a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake. Strain into a champagne flute. Top up with champagne. Garnish with lemon peel. 


Hanky Panky

Not created in the 1930’s, but popular in the era. Hanky Panky is a cocktail must. Made from equal parts gin and sweet vermouth with two dashes of Fernet Branca, this saucy cocktail was created from cocktail master Ada Coleman, a well-regarded bartender at The Hotel Savoy in London. Upon her retirement in 1925, The Daily Express wrote this about the booze-slinging broad: “‘Coley’ is known to thousands of men all over the world, Britons who are now roughing it in various parts of the Empire, Americans who think of her every time they remember their own country’s dryness.” But the Hanky Panky is her biggest claim to fame, created to appease the thirst of a celebrated but exhausted actor, Sir Charles Hawtrey. Coleman says the name came from Hawtrey’s exclamation on taking his first sip, “By Jove! That is the real hanky-panky!”

How to make a Hanky Panky:

50ml Gin

50ml Sweet Vermouth

5ml (or a couple of dashes) Fernet Branca

10ml freshly squeezed orange juice

Shake well and strain into cocktail glass. Squeeze Orange peel on top.

Enjoyed the 1930’s? why not have a look at the 1920’s or next month we’ll be looking at cocktails from the 1940’s, but until then chin, chin.

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