C is for Cocktail: The Bacardi Cocktail

And we’re off! 🙂  For those of you who didn’t tune in last week, this is the first in a short series of 1920s cocktail recipes I’ll be posting over the next month or so.  It’s a little different than my usual fare, but I hope you like them.

Here’s a fruity one to get things started:

~ * ~

T H E    B A C A R D I    C O C K T A I L

Pretty in Pink!

A gorgeous Bacardi Cocktail. Photo taken from here.

While popularly associated with the 1930s, this sweet and sour cocktail is actually much older.  An English drink guide from the Embassy Hotel, Cocktails, How to Make Them, claims that this drink is “undoubtedly more popular than any other cocktail” in the United Sates–and that was in 1922.  The exact origins of the drink are unclear, but considering it contains Bacardi, it may well come from Havana, Cuba, a popular tourist destination for Americans looking to drink during Prohibition.  Below are two slightly different period recipes.

T H E   1 9 2 2   R E C I P E :

Fill the shaker half full of broken ice, and add:

1/6 gill* of Fresh Lime Juice

2/6 gill of Bacardi

Sugar Syrup according to taste

Shake well and strain into a cocktail-glass.  When no limes [are] handy, lemons are usually taken instead.

* Please note: According to author of Cocktails, a “gill” is equal to 0.142 liters, with 4 gills equaling 1 pint; a cocktail glass itself contains “half a gill of liquid.”  Basically, in European terms, a gill is a quarter of a pint, while in American terms it’s 4 oz for every gill.

T H E   1 9 1 3 – 1 9 2 6   R E C I P E :

The Cocktail Book: A Sideboard Manual for Gentlemen, originally published in Boston in 1913 but reprinted throughout the 1920s, considers this one a “recent” favorite.

1 teaspoon Sugar

1 portion Bacardi Rum

Half portion orange juice

Half portion lemon juice

Fill with ice, shake until very cold, and strain into a cocktail glass.

T H E   1 9 2 5   C U B A N O L A :

While researching this post, I came across an interesting anecdote regarding a variation on a Bacardi cocktail called the Cubanola, a 1925 creation that was supposedly one of many cocktails to die out after Prohibition.  According to Johnny Brooks, the man who created it, it was basically an act of desperation:

“Someone came in…and ordered a Bacardi cocktail.  The bootleg Bacardi we had wasn’t the real stuff, and it was raw.  I decided to doctor it up a bit.” Desperately trying to cover up the rum, Brooks moved back and forth between sweet and sour ingredients, adding grenadine, orange juice, pineapple juice, lemon juice, and finally, egg white for eye appeal.  There it was—the Cubanola, which no one has ordered or heard of since.”

Google disagrees with Grimes.  According to a quick search for “Cubanola cocktail,” a Chicago bar called The Drawing Room on 937 N. Rush St. was serving them in 2008.  Unfortunately The Drawing Room has been closed since 2011, but proof of the drink’s continued existence is still around.  Reporter Dana Kavan of the Chicago Sun-Times describes watching the drink get made right at her table, which seems to have the original ingredients intact, plus a few additions:

“The bartender rolled up with a stocked cart to start crafting the Cubanola, a mix of Bacardi, fresh lemon-sour, pomegranate grenadine and orange and pineapple juices. He began by cracking an egg white into the bottom of a pint glass. He squeezed lemon juice into it to finish off the homemade sour. To that, he added 1 ounce of made-from-scratch pomegranate grenadine, which isn’t nearly as sweet as you’d expect. In went the rum and juices, before all the ingredients got an intense shake. He poured the concoction into a coupe glass and then ran the flame from a lighter over a lemon to heat up the fruit’s oils, allowing them to seep into the concoction after the wedge was placed on top.”

She claimed the drink “tasted amazing” with “a nice foamy head from the egg white, which imparted a creamy consistency” and “am almost burnt-orange flavor, followed by tart citrus notes and the taste of fresh tropical fruit.”

What about you, dear readers?  Ever tried a Cubanola?  Or a Bacardi cocktail?  If so, what did you think of it?  Please post your comments below! 🙂

 ~ * ~

Author’s Note: While this isn’t exactly period-related, I came across a fun factoid while researching this article: legally, thanks to a 1936 law, you can ONLY call a Bacardi Cocktail by that name IF it contains REAL Bacardi Rum.  It turns out that Bacardi rum was so popular both during and after Prohibition—as was the Bacardi Cocktail—that people would come into a bar and ask for “Bacardi” when they really meant “rum.”  The two terms became so synonymous in people’s minds at the time that “Bacardi,” as author Wayne Curtis points out in And a Bottle of Rum: A History of the New World in Ten Cocktails, “threatened to become a generic term—like Kleenex or FedEx—and bartenders increasingly felt free to substitute any rum on hand, even if a customer specifically ordered ‘Bacardi.'”  It got so bad that the Bacardi family actually sued two fancy New York hotels for selling other rum under their name—and they won!  The New York Supreme Court ultimately ruled that a Bacardi Cocktail MUST contain Bacardi Rum, and that was that.

Also, if you feel the Bacardi Cocktail seems very similar to a Margarita…you’d be right!  It helped pave the way to the Margaritas we know and love today.

Works Cited:

Viermiere, Robert.  1922.  Cocktails, how to mix them.  London, UK: The Mayflower Press.

Paget, R. L. (pseudonym). 1925 edition. The Cocktail Book: A Sideboard Manual for Gentlemen.  Boston, MA: L. C. Page Publishers.  (Originally published in 1900 and again in 1913, it subsequently saw a number of American re-printings from 1925 to 1928.  Can’t imagine why! ;))

Grimes, William.  1993.  Straight Up or On The Rocks: A Cultural History of American Drink.  New York, NY: Simon & Schuster.

Kavan, Dana.  June 4, 2008.  “Drink of the Week: The Cubanola.”  Chicago Sun-Times.  Accessed via Illinois News Sources.

Curtis, Wayne. 2006. And a Bottle of Rum: A History of the New World in Ten Cocktails. New York, NY: Crown Publishing Group.

About lupachi1927

My name's Megan, and I'm a writer with an interest in history. While I might not be a real historian, I'm a very thorough researcher. This blog is my place to post about all the interesting historical tidbits I find that can't use in the novel I'm working on, which takes place in Chicago in 1927. If you're looking for research help, writing feedback, or just want to say hi, feel free to drop me a line! :)
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3 Responses to C is for Cocktail: The Bacardi Cocktail

  1. jazzfeathers says:

    I’m familiar with the Bacardi Cocktail (of course ;-)), but I’ve never heard of the Cubanola. Though I’m sure there are a lot of Prohibition cocktail I’ve never heard of, and no one have heard of since the days.
    I heard it say that’s a good thing 😉


  2. lupachi1927 says:

    Me either! I’d try one, if I could find someone who knew how to make it—but I got enough weird looks the last time I ordered a sidecar 😉 . And yeah, it’s probably a good thing that most of them were forgotten…but it’s interesting how many classic drinks came out of Prohibition as well, or were made more popular because of it.


  3. Pingback: C is for Cocktail: It’s National Daiquiri Day! :D | A Smile And A Gun

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