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Cocktail concoctions: Making vintage drinks with friends

This past Christmas was the first one I spent as a 21 year-old. And now that I was of legal drinking age, the floodgates had been opened for one specific type of gift: drinking-related paraphernalia. 

Accordingly, I received more than a few alcohol-themed gifts. Unconventional beer glasses, a samurai sword-shaped bottle opener, globed whisky glasses and a leather-bound flask were among them. 

But one booze-based gift stood out from the rest: a heavy glass cocktail mixer and a small paper booklet of drink recipes. 

As far as my roommates and I can figure out, the shaker and book are both from around the year 1960, so they’re basically artifacts from a lost age, I guess. And being the enterprising archeologists that we are, we sought to make use of these antique treasures. 

The shaker had a variety of cocktail recipes vibrantly painted on its side and the booklet also contained tips and tricks for hosting a successful dinner party, including things like, “pre-plan how many guests you want to invite,” “come up with fun party games” and “be sure to serve lots of broiled bologna balls.” Wait. Hm. Maybe these tips shouldn’t all be followed verbatim. 

Anyways!

“Well shucks,” I thought to myself. “I’d sure like to host a successful dinner party.” 

But seeing as how we’re still in the midst of a pandemic, I settled for making some fun vintage cocktails with my friends. 

The Drinks: 

My roommates Theo, Alyssa, Julia and I all ended up participating in this cocktail concocting. Each of us selected a beverage with a different liquor as its base and, after a quick trip to Oxford Spirits to acquire the necessary ingredients, set to making our drinking dreams into a reality. 

Below are the recipes for our four drinks and my unquestionably expert opinions of each of them.

The Down-the-Hatch (Duard): 

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  • 2 jiggers (3 ounces) whiskey

  • 3 dashes blackberry brandy

  • 2 dashes orange bitters (we had to substitute blood orange) 

  • Shake well with ice. Strain into cocktail glass.

I’m not quite sure what the folks from the 60s were thinking with this one, to be honest. Two to three dashes of these other ingredients amount to pretty much nothing, taste-wise. This night was a rough one for me because I was basically drinking straight whiskey the whole time. Oof. 

3/10

El Presidente (Julia): 

  • 1 jigger (1.5 ounces) light rum

  • ½ ounce Curacao (we had to substitute for blue Curacao) 

  • ¾ ounce dry vermouth

  • 1 dash grenadine 

  • Shake well with ice. Strain into cocktail glass. Decorate with orange peel. 

And the 60s folks have struck out again with this one. I’m not sure how much of an issue our substitution of blue Curacao was here, but I don’t think it’s what made this cocktail yucky. Aside from it being an unpleasant deep blue, this drink was cloyingly sweet and overly heavy. Would not recommend. Julia did not make a second one of these. You might just be better off sticking with straight liquor. 

2/10

The Tom Collins (Theo): 

  • 1 jigger (1.5 ounces) gin

  • 1 teaspoon of sugar

  • Juice of ½ lemon

  • Pour over ice into tall glass. Stir well, add cherry, fill with soda and add orange slice to garnish.

Okay, okay, we’re finally getting somewhere. This cocktail didn’t make me go “eugh” when I drank it. While it’s still pretty mild, you do get some notes of citrus on the aftertaste. There was still a bit too much soda water for my liking, but I could definitely drink a few of these without being too upset. 

4/10

The Scotch Side Car (Alyssa): 

  • 1 jigger (1.5 ounces) scotch

  • ¾ ounce triple sec

  • ¾ ounce lemon juice

  • Shake well with ice. Strain into cocktail glass.

And here we are, the ultimate cocktail of our retro party night. But don’t let that praise fool you — I honestly think I might prefer vodka and orange juice to this one. The lemon-y flavor and dry sweetness were nice, almost akin to a drier lemon drop, but they were still a far cry from a great drink in my book. 

6/10

And there you have it, folks; my review of our vintage cocktails. My main takeaway: the people living in the 1960s had it rough. Bartending science has certainly come a long way since those days, and I’m glad for it.  

But perhaps my friends and I dropped the ball here. Maybe our mixology skills just weren’t up to par. Perhaps we chose some unfortunate drinks from among the list. Who knows? The world of cocktails is vast and varied, and we are but minnows in this mighty, unforgiving ocean. 

Or maybe the drinks were just bad. 

Regardless, I think I’ll stick to the modern stuff going forward. 

@DewardHedlee

headledd@miamioh.edu 

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