Here’s to champagne, the drink divine,
That makes us forget our troubles;
It’s made a dollar’s worth of wine,
And three dollars’ worth of bubbles.
—Toast from Harry Montague’s The Up-to-date Bartenders’ Guide: a Valuable Ready Reference Guide to the Art of Mixing Drinks, Containing All the Standard And Popular Drinks, With a Choice Selection of Appropriate Toasts (1913)
Ever wonder how Chicagoans greeted the New Year during Prohibition? Read on for how to set a table, where to hold your shindig, what to serve your guests and how to deal with the star of the night: champagne!
H O L D I N G T H E P A R T Y :
Where to Go?
As an anonymous Tribune reporter observed, “The New Years eve celebration is the oldest known to man. The grape was part of it long before the days of the Roman Saturnalia.”1 Once Prohibition hit, however, things changed for the worse.
1925 saw the arrival of chief general Prohibition Administrator Edward C. Yellowley to Chicago, who swore that, besides cleaning up the booze lords, it was “going to be unsafe for any citizen to violate the dry law in any way.”2 “Every man and woman detected in the act of taking a drink of spirituous liquor on New Year’s eve is going to be arrested,” Tribune reporter Sidney Sutherland trumpeted a few days before New Years in 1925.3 “They will be tapped on the shoulders, whether their shoulders are clad in formal masculine evening clothes or glistening with rice powder under the shaded lights of Chicago’s hotels, restaurants and cabarets…and driven away in the paddy wagons.”4 Yellowley was as good as his word, and arrested a record number of individuals that year.
While Yellowley stopped short of raiding people’s homes without a warrant, he did his best to put the kibosh on celebratory drinking every New Year’s Eve while he was Chicago’s “Dry Boss.” He brought in extra Prohibition agents in evening clothes to slip into public parties in night clubs and hotel ballrooms to watch for patrons sneaking hip flasks or waiters serving alcohol and arrest them on sight. He even “encouraged” cabaret owners to arrest any patrons they caught drinking, at the risk of being padlocked themselves.
This kind of environment led to people moving their drinking into more private realms. At first, many revelers sought solace in private hotel rooms, slipping in to drink after dancing in the ballrooms downstairs. But when Yellowley set agents to watch the room doors for deliveries, hotels lost their charm. In the end, more and more Chicagoans chose to host quiet celebrations at home. Such private parties came with real appeal: you could drink in the privacy of your own home without violating the Volstead Act, so long as the liquor was purchased prior to 1920. And since Yellowley had stopped short of actually raiding people’s homes, how was anyone to know whether it had been purchased before the Great War or off some bootlegger’s truck a few hours before the party? 😉
S E T T I N G T H E T A B L E :
So what did a homey New Years eve celebration look like during the 1920s? A festive article by Tribune writer Sally Lunn provides a good picture. The decorations she outlines sound both elegant and fun:
- Lunn says to “let your decorative abilities run riot in concocting a gay and colorful table.”5 Colorful balloon centerpieces, party hats, and so on will offer welcome spots of color among the drabness of winter and will help to ring in the new year.
- Noisemakers like horns and bells, colorful party favors, and “gaudy paper hats” are a must.6
- Silver, black, and white are the colors of the day: “silver crepe paper tablecloth, or silver paper doilies with matching paper napkins” can cover the table, while a cardboard clock in white and silver with black numbers and hands would make a fine centerpiece if you don’t want to use balloons. “Miniature clock faces would make cute place cards, or Father Time with silver sickles” would make nice table decorations as well. Silver and white balloons can add to the theme.7
R E C I P I E S :
Creamed Oysters, Creamed Lobster,
and Other Decadent Things
As Jane Eddington of the Chicago Tribune‘s recipe column noted, seafood—particularly oysters—were “always a la mode” when it came to New Years eve feasts.8 This was true, Eddington says, even before the Roaring Twenties: “cream of oyster” was a popular dish on New Years eve 1881, she notes, along with “boiled salmon,” lobster, shrimp, and duck.9 During the 1920s, buffets were popular ways of serving large crowds of revelers at home, with an emphasis on “creamed” meat dishes like chicken or fish, hot vegetable dishes, bread rolls, salads, and various cakes and ice creams.10
Oysters, however, were the star of the show for decades. Here’s Eddington’s 1929 recipe for creamed oysters, and another one for creamed lobster if you’re feeling really decadent.
Poach oyster in own liquid, then let them cool. Clean shells until “immaculate” and rub with cut garlic and butter. Set aside.
Make a sauce for the oysters:
3 tablespoons of flour
2 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon milk
Add a few grains of cayenne pepper and a few grates of nutmeg “to bring up the flavor” of the sauce. Add some of the salty oyster cooking liquid if you want as well.
Put the sauce in the cleaned shells and add the cooked oyster back into each one (either the whole oyster or minced oyster is fine.) Cover the oysters in the rest of sauce, top with fine bread crumbs, and bake for 10 minutes in a 400 degree oven.
Top with a small spray of parsley and serve.11
Eddington says this is a great way to “economically” stretch lobster. She says fresh lobster is best, but canned “will do in a pinch.”
Make a cream sauce with two tablespoons of flour for thickening. Season sauce with “a tiny portion” of salt, nutmeg, and paprika. Add “three grains” of ceyanne pepper per cup of sauce.
Cut the lobster meat up fine, heat it gently in butter, then put it in with the sauce and cook together “until the combination is quite pink.” Serve.12
Various ways of serving the lobster include:
Rice mold: Pack in creamed lobster, followed by boiled rice into a ring-shaped jello mold that has been rinsed with cold water, then turn out of mold quickly and serve. If preparing this way, add a touch of curry to the lobster sauce, as well as salt and pepper.
Au gratin: Put creamed lobster into a baking dish, top with shredded cheese of your choice, and bake until the top puffs.
Ramekins: Put portions of creamed lobster in buttered ramekins, sprinkle with bread crumbs, and bake in oven until it puffs.13
TO THE NEW YEAR:
Cocktails, Punches and Champagne
As for drinks during New Years eve, there’s really only one: champagne! While drinking it plain was always an option, the Roaring Twenties saw the rise of a number of champagne cocktails: the French 75 (which I covered earlier in this post), the Mimosa / Buck Fizz (supposedly invented in 1925), the Bellini, and many more. The fizzy wine, forever associated with the celebrations of the rich and powerful, fit right in to the celebratory air of the Roaring Twenties. However, the real stuff was hard to come by. On New Years Eve in 1925, the Tribune reported that pretty much only fake stuff was available: “There is a large quantity of fake champagne in Chicago, all of which is said to have been bottled in Newark, NJ. Clicquot, Mumm’s Cordon Rouge, Piper Heidsieck, and Heidsieck Monopole are the labels most used by the fakers…Real champagne is selling at $120 to $125 a case. The fake brings $45 to $80.”14
But first, some champagne instructions for you all…
How To Properly Serve Champagne, Circa 1914:
According to bartender Jacques Straub’s 1914 book Drinks, if one is having champagne with a meal, one must serve it in the correct manner and at the correct time. Here are some of his serving suggestions:
Chilling: “When conditioning champagne for service, the chilling…should be slowly and carefully done by placing the warm bottle in a refrigerator for several hours and not packed in ice until shortly before serving. Should the time for conditioning be short, place the wine in a bucket of cold water as it runs from the faucet, adding a few lumps of ice every ten to fifteen minutes…”15
Serving Temperature: Vintage champagne should be served at 45 degrees, young ones at 38 degrees, and non-vintage ones at 32—according to Straub, anyway.16
Uncorking: “Upon taking the bottle from the cooler it should be well wrapped with a napkin so the warm hand of the waiter will not come in contact with the bottle and agitate the wine.”17
Pouring: Only fill glasses to within one-fourth of an inch from the brim, and only “solid stem” glasses should be used.18
When to Consume: “The proper time for serving Champagne is being the last meat course of the dinner. Being served cold, the carbonic gas becomes ‘caged’ and drinking the same between two warm courses, the gas becomes released…and render[s] the stomach sour.” If served properly, however, it “will do the work it is intended for, and at once relieve you of that oppressive and uncomfortable feeling.”19
Want some more modern guides to champagne drinking? Try Forbes’ article on how to drink champagne, or have Huffington Post tell you how you’ve been drinking it wrong all this time.
T H E C H A M P A G N E C O C K T A I L :
This cocktail predates Prohibition considerably. It can be found as far back as 1862 in the Bon Vivant’s Companion—pre Civil War!—but it was popular during the 1920s as well. Except for the bizarre deviation of 1888 (which seems more like a punch than anything else), the cocktail recipe doesn’t change overly much over time, save for different citrus accents and the choice of bitters.
Interestingly, it’s also the same cocktail that Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman sip near the piano as Sam plays As Time Goes By in Casablanca. And you can’t get more classy than that! 😀
T H E 1 8 8 0 V E R S I O N :
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 or 2 dashes of bitters
1 piece lemon peel
Fill tumbler 1/3rd with broken ice, and fill rest with champagne. Use strainer.20
T H E 1 8 8 8 V E R S I O N :
Put 2 to 3 lumps of ice in bottom of each champagne goblet, then mix as follows:
1 or 2 slices of orange, placed on top of the ice
2 or 3 nice strawberries (if in season)
1 fine slice of pineapple
1 lump sugar placed on top of ice
2 or 3 dashes of Boker’s bitters
“Fill…glass with [champange], stir up well with a spoon and twist a nice piece of lemon peel on top and serve.”21
T H E 1 9 0 3 V E R S I O N :
1 lump of sugar
3 dashes Augustora bitters
1 small lump of ice
Fill the [champagne] goblet with wine, stir with a spoon, twist a piece of lemon on top, and serve.
“1/2 pint of wine is suitable for one cocktail,” according to Tim Daly, the bartender and author of HIS BOOK. “This is the cream of all morning cocktails, and under no circumstances should anything but the best of imported champagne be used, and the drink should be ice-cold and consumed slowly.”22
T H E 1 9 1 4 V E R S I O N :
1 lump of sugar
2 dashes of Augustora bitters
1 dash Peychaud bitters
1 piece of orange peel twisted on top
1 pint of champagne
T H E 1 9 2 2 V E R S I O N :
Put 1 lump sugar in a wine glass, soak it with Augustora Bitters, squeeze the essence of 2 or 3 pieces of lemon-peel in the glass, add 1 lump of ice, and fill the glass with iced champagne. Stir slightly with the mixing spoon, squeeze and drop another piece of lemon peel in the glass. One bottle of champagne makes 5 to 6 cocktails.24
T H E 1 9 1 4 ” F A N C Y ” V E R S I O N :
1 lump sugar, saturated with Boker’s Bitters
1 lump ice
1 piece lemon peel
1 slice orange
1 slice pineapple
Fill glass with cold champagne, stir with spoon, and serve.25
C H A M P A G N E P U N C H :
Virtually all the bar-tending books I looked at had some kind of recipe for a champagne punch. Batches of the stuff were made for large parties, usually at men’s clubs and holiday parties. Try one at your New Year’s eve bash! There’s even a non-alcoholic version for the kiddies. 😉
T H E 1 9 0 0 A L C O H O L I C V E R S I O N :
Put in punch bowl 1 piece of ice, then:
1 quart bottle champagne
1 pint bottle Apollinaris water
4 pieces of sugar
1 orange, sliced
1 lemon, sliced
6 or 8 pineapple slices
1 wine glass pineapple syrup
1 wine glass abriocotine (an apricot liqueur)
Stir gently and serve in champagne glasses.26
T H E 1 9 0 3 A L C O H O L I C V E R S I O N :
2 wine glasses of seltzer water
6 lumps of sugar dissolved in seltzer
1 pony glass of benedictine
1 pony glass of maraschino
1 wine glass of brandy (Martell)
3 slices of pineapple
3 slices of orange
1 piece of ice
Take one quart of champagne, pour on top, serve in champagne glasses. Meant for six people. Tim Daly, bartender, adds: “For persons accustomed to the good things of life, champagne cup is considered the par excellence of all mixtures, and it must be conceded their verdict cannot be contradicted.”27
T H E 1 9 1 7 A L C O H O L I C V E R S I O N :
Into a glass pitcher, pour the Juice of 1 Lemon, and add:
1/4 lb. Sugar
1 jigger Strawberry Syrup
1 quart bottle Champagne
Stir with ladle and then drop in:
1 sliced Orange
3 slices of Pineapple
Decorate with fruit and serve in Champagne goblets.28
T H E A L C O H O L I C 1 9 3 3 V E R S I O N :
1/2 lb. Powdered Sugar
1 glass Curacao
2 qts. Morlant Champagne
1 qt. Sparkling Mineral Water
1 glass Brandy
1 glass Drioli Maraschino
Surround punch bowl with cracked ice, decorations, etc. Stir well.29
T H E N O N – A L C O H O L I C V E R S I O N, c. 1 9 2 8 :
The Tribune‘s Jane Eddington provided a lovely recipe for a fake champagne punch in her column, which according to the hotel matre-de who gave it to her, “taste[s] just like a champagne cocktail,” and was extremely well-received at debutante balls, where they saw it as a “great lark.”30 Here is the recipe:
1 pint sparkling grape juice
1 pint bubbly [carbonated] water
1 teaspoon Augustora bitters
Spray of mint
The matre-de explained further: “Do not add any fruit juices [(beyond the grape juice)], just Augustora bitters and a bunch of mint on top of the ice in the pitcher or bowl. You will find it tastes like an old-fashioned champagne cocktail and goes equally well with a fine, balanced meal.”31
T H E 1 9 3 4 C H I C A G O C O C K T A I L
I found this cocktail while looking up different champagne cocktails for this post, and figured I’d include it. Not only does it have Chicago in the name, it’s got a different flavor, too, since it uses brandy. As “Robert” from The Embassy Club says, it’s basically a “plain brandy cocktail with a little champagne on top, and a squeezed lemon peel dropped in the glass.”32 Here’s a 1934 recipe, which had more explicit directions than the 1922 one:
1 dash Angostora Bitters
1 dash Curacao
Stir well in ice and strain into glass. Frost edge of glass with Castor Sugar and full with Champagne.33
N E W Y E A R S G R E E T I N G C A R D S :
I found a bunch of these and thought I’d share, just because! 🙂
H A P P Y N E W Y E A R , E V E R Y O N E ! ! !
Hope you have a great one! 😀
F O O T N O T E S :
1.”POUNCING ON NEW YEAR’S.” Chicago Daily Tribune (1872-1922), Dec 20, 1922. http://search.proquest.com/docview/175053087?accountid=3688.
2. Evans, Arthur. “Yellowley here with Mop to War on Big Boozesellers.” Chicago Daily Tribune (1923-1963), Sep 12, 1925. http://search.proquest.com/docview/180661646?accountid=3688
3. Sutherland, Sidney. “WOMEN TIPPLERS TO BE JAILED, NEW YEAR EDICT.” Chicago Daily Tribune (1923-1963), Dec 29, 1925. http://search.proquest.com/docview/180609355?accountid=3688
5. Lunn, Sally. “New Year’s Eve is Excuse for an Informal Party.” Chicago Daily Tribune (1923-1963), Dec 27, 1929. http://search.proquest.com/docview/181052193?accountid=3688
8. Eddington, Jane. “The TRIBUNE COOK BOOK.” Chicago Daily Tribune (1923-1963), Dec 29, 1929. http://search.proquest.com/docview/181033562?accountid=3688
9. Eddington, Jane. “Old Menus Give New Ideas for ‘Watch Parties’.” Chicago Daily Tribune (1923-1963), Dec 27, 1929. http://search.proquest.com/docview/181052066?accountid=3688
10. Eddington, Jane. “The TRIBUNE COOK BOOK.” Chicago Daily Tribune (1923-1963), Dec 29, 1929. http://search.proquest.com/docview/181033562?accountid=3688
14. Burns, Edward. “YULE SWIGGING PASSES; MIXED DRINK IS BACK.” Chicago Daily Tribune (1923-1963), Dec 20, 1925. http://search.proquest.com/docview/180688887?accountid=3688
15. Straub, Jacques. Drinks. Chicago: The Hotel Monthly Press, 1914. p. 4 https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=uc1.31175012996842;view=1up;seq=8
18. Straub, p. 5
20. Engel, Leo. American & Other Drinks: Upwards of Two Hundred of the Most Approved Recipes for Making the Principal Beverages Used In the United States And Elsewhere. 2d ed. London: Tinsley, 1880. p. 40. https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=uc1.31175004280742;view=1up;seq=54
21. Johnson, Harry. The New And Improved Illustrated Bartenders’ Manual; Or: How to Mix Drinks of the Present Style. New York: H. Johnson, 1888.p. 38. https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=hvd.32044087499935;view=1up;seq=54
22. Daly, Tim. Daly’s Bartenders’ Encyclopedia. Worcester, Mass.: T. Daly, 1903. p. 62. https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=uc1.31175012996842;view=1up;seq=2691162;view=1up;seq=70
23. Straub, p. 22
24. Robert. Cocktails, How to Mix Them. London: H. Jenkins, 1922. p. 22. https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=uc1.31175035242356;view=1up;seq=26
25. Paget, R L., pseud. The Cocktail Book: a Sideboard Manual for Gentlemen. New rev. ed. Boston: L. C. Page, 1913. p. 10. https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=wu.89038582425;view=1up;seq=32
26. Maloney, James C., 1864 or 5- [from old catalog]. The 20th Century Guide for Mixing Fancy Drinks … [Chicago?], 1900. p. 22. http://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=loc.ark:/13960/t6c25cm5g;view=1up;seq=26
27. Daly, p. 97.
28. Bullock, Thomas. The Ideal Bartender. [St. Louis: Buxton & Skinner printing and stationery co., 1917. p. 24. https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=uva.x002086133;view=1up;seq=30
29. Guyer, William. The Merry Mixer, Or, Cocktails And Their Ilk: a Booklet On Mixtures And Mulches, Fizzes And Whizzes. New York: Jos. S. Finch & Co., inc, 1933. p. 58.
30. Eddington, Jane. “Here are Cups that Cheer but Don’t Inebriate.” Chicago Daily Tribune (1923-1963), Dec 29, 1928. http://search.proquest.com/docview/180940437?accountid=3688
32. Robert, p. 22.
33. Duffy, Patrick Gavin. The Official Mixer’s Manual. New York: R. Long & R. R. Smith, 1934. p. 157. https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=uc1.31822031041288;view=1up;seq=183