Cocktail History in America: Prohibition (1910s-1933)

The guide includes information about materials in the History of Food & Drink Collection relating to cocktail history in America and related food, social, domestic, and economic history. It also has tools and resources for completing historical research.

Prohibition Doesn't Mean No One is Drinking It

In 1919, the cocktail world (and indeed, the alcohol world) was thrown for a loop. The passage of the National Prohibition Act (aka the Volstead Act) resulted in the 18th Amendment: "After one year from the ratification of this article the manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors within, the importation thereof into, or the exportation thereof from the United States and all territory subject to the jurisdiction thereof for beverage purposes is hereby prohibited." At midnight on January 17th, 1920, alcohol, it seemed, was off-limits, driven by a variety of factors--increasingly vocal temperance movements, desires for social reforms, and economic concerns in the post-war age among them. 

The result, of course, were not what anyone expected: Alcohol consumption went underground, Jazz Age venues became speakeasies, crime (especially bootlegging) rose, and American bartenders went abroad to continue their trade. Despite the ban, 1920-1933 was marked by a range of cocktail publications and artifacts, the evolution of the "mixed drink" (fruit juices, sodas, and other mixers were added to cocktails to cover the taste of wood alcohol and bathtub gin), and a whole generation of seemingly "sick" Americans (a medical exception to Prohibition was passed in 1921, leaving patent medicines and bitters--often 40% alcohol--legal to buy). However, change was on the horizon...

Suggested Books & Manuscripts in Special Collections

Books Published in the United States

  • Boothby, William T. "Cocktail Bill" Boothby's World Drinks and How to Prepare Them. [San Francisco, Boothby's World Drinks Co.; Printed by the Recorder Printing & Publishing Co., c1930]. Call Number: TX 951 B76 1930
  • Crockett, Albert Stevens. The Old Waldorf-Astoria Bar Days: with the Cognomina and Composition of Four Hundred and Ninety-One Appealing Appetizers and Salutary Potations Long Known, Admired and Served at the Famous Big Brass Rail: Also, a Glossary for the Use of Antiquarians and Students of American Mores. New York, Aventine Press, 1931. Call Number: F 128.8 W22 C8 1931
  • Cordial Cocktail Confidences. New York : B.B. Dorf & Co., Inc., [1929?]. Call Number: TX 815 C67 1929. 
  • Davies, Samuel E. An English Butler's Canapes, Salads, Sandwiches, Drinks, Etc. New York: Hirschler Books, c.1916. Call Number: TX 331 D29 1916
  • Drink Mixer [activity card]. [New York] : Nat M. Leff, [ca. 1931]. Call Number: TX 951 D73 1931z
  • Forty Famous Cocktails. New York : Colonial Sales Corp., [193-?] Call Number: TX 951 F67 1930
  • Mason, Dexter. The Art of Drinking; or, What to Make with What You Have, Together with Divers Succulent Canapes Suitable to Each Occasion. New York: Farrar & Rinehart, c.1930. Call Number: TX 951 M3 1930
  • McBlair, Robert. A Modern Version of the Night Before Christmas. [United States?] : Press of the Woolly Whale, 1932. Call Number: PS 3525 A1186 M6 1932
  • Mental Cocktails: A Stimulant for that Depressed Feeling. 1933. Call Number: PN 6371 M46 1933
  • Shaw, Charles Green. Nightlife: Vanity Fair's Intimiate Guide to New York After Dark. New York : John Day Co., [c1931]. Call Number: F 128.627 S38 1931
  • Shay, Frank. My Pious Friends and Drunken Companions, Songs and Ballads of Conviviality. New York, Macmillan Ccmpany [c1927]. Call Number: PS 593 L8 S45 1927
  • Snappy Jokes: A New Collection of Rich and Rare Jokes. Detroit, Mich. : Johnson Smith & Co., [193-?]. Call Number: PN 6161 S63 1930x

Books Published Abroad

  • Craddock, Harry. The Savoy Cocktail Book. London: Constable & Co., 1930. Call Number: TX 951 C76 1930 
  • Exclusive Cocktails from the Recipes of Usher's Hotel. Sydney: Usher's Metropolitan Hotel, 1936. Call Number: TX 951 E99 1936
  • Gordon's Recipes for Cocktails and Other Beverages. London: Tanquery, Gordon and Company Ltd., [1920?]. Call Number: TP 607 G4 1920z
  • Los Cock-tails mas Sabrosos: 202 Fórmulas. Madrid : Agencia General de Librería y Artes Gráficas, [193-?]. Call Number: TX 951 G44 1930z
  • Recetas Prácticas: Para la Preparación en Frio de Licores, Aguardientes, Arac, Coñac, Ron, Jarabes de Fruitas y Limonadas, etc. con los Productos de Schimmel y Ca. Miltitz cerca de Leipzig : Schimmel y Ca., 1922. Call Number: TX 951 S35 1922
  • Seutter, Carl A. Der Mixologist: Illustriertes Internationales Getränke-Buch. Nordhausen : Killinger, [ca. 1925]. Call Number: TX 951 S48 1925

Manuscripts

Online Resources

About Special Collections

New Theatre (the Lyric) and Store Building for the Blacksburg Realty Company
New Theatre (the Lyric) and Store Building for the Blacksburg Realty Company

Hours: 
Monday-Friday 8am-5pm & By Appointment

Contact us:
Email: specref@vt.edu
Telephone: 540-231-6308

Twitter: @VT_SCUA
Information for Visitors

Find us online!
Our website
Our digital collections
Our blog
Our LibGuide (Information about us and our collections)