Want to ring in the New Year with an unusual 1920s twist? Why not try a Prohibition cocktail…without any alcohol?
DRINKS THAT “CHEER BUT DON’T INEBRIATE”: NEW YEAR’S MOCK-TAILS
While New Year’s Eve in the Roaring Twenties tends to call up images of glittering high-class speakeasies dripping with champagne, New Year’s Eve in Chicago during the 1920s was actually fairly tame. While some people went out for a night on the town full of booze, or partied hard at home, many more had a nice, quiet, and dry celebration.
When asked what they’d be doing for New Years in 1920, many Chicagoans answered that they were going to spend a quiet night with family and friends, rather than have a night on the town. “In former years the thing to do was to reserve a table at some downtown cafe and enjoy whatever entertainment it might furnish, but I guess since John Barleycorn died people have gotten out of that habit,” observed Mr. Merrill when asked what he planned to do for New Year’s Eve.1 His fellow Chicagoans seemed to back up his statement, with few of them planning to go out and “see a show” that year.2 The following year seemed to cement the new trend. When asked if their New Year’s Eve was “wet” or “dry” in 1922, all of the people asked said they had “a very ‘dry’ New Year’s Eve” in general, with many saying they spent a quiet night home with family instead of going out.3 Yet by 1928, public opinion had started to change. When asked if they missed New Year’s “before the country went dry,” three out of the five Chicagoans surveyed said they wanted the old New Year’s celebrations back, citing “no good” liquor, increasing bootlegger violence, and a general lack of “whoopee” as reasons why a “dry” New Year was no longer wanted.4
Those people had to wait until 1933 to get their regular New Year’s back, but for most of the duration of Prohibition, most folks didn’t spend their New Year’s Eve drinking to excess. What did they drink instead? All kinds of things—and many of them actually sound pretty good, too! Check out the recipes below. These cheerful, non-alcoholic drinks would be sure to please any teetotaler on New Year’s Eve.
” C H A M P A G N E ” C O C K T A I L ( 1 9 2 9 ) :
1 pt. sparkling grape juice
1 pt. of carbonated water
1 tsp. angostura bitters
1 sprig of mint, roughly chopped, for garnish
Combine items in large punch bowl, taking care not to add any extra fruit juices. Then add “a bunch…on top of the ice in the pitcher or bowl” and serve.5
This unusual recipe comes from the Chicago Tribune‘s Jane Eddington, whose recipes have been featured in many of my previous posts. It came, she said, from a maitre’d at “one of our grandest hostelries” who had served it at many a debutante ball, and many of the underage guests thought it was “a great lark.”6
Jane assures readers that it tastes just like “an old-fashioned champagne cocktail and goes equally well with a fine, balanced meal.”7 As for what an old-fashioned champagne cocktail was, she’s probably referring to this Jerry Thomas recipe for a Champagne Cocktail. In modern terms, it means a drink like this one. Either way, one likely ends up with something both sweet and sour, and actually sounds pretty good! 🙂
Jerry Thomas’ creations acts as inspiration for another of Eddington’s drink as well, a kind of brandy punch—minus the brandy, of course ;). Eddington modifies this Jerry Thomas recipe below.
F R U I T P U N C H ( 1 9 2 9 ) :
1 tablespoon raspberry syrup
2 tablespoons sugar
1 small orange, juiced
1/2 lemon, juiced
1/2 cup of water
1 slice of pineapple, crushed
Combine ingredients and shake together, then add lump ice to a tall glass and pour mixture over ice. Sip through a straw.8
Spiced, hot drinks like cider were another popular choice for Prohibition-era New Year’s Eve revelers. Here are a series of recipes from 1931, all of which involve spices, fruit juices, and zero alcohol content…
SPICED CHERRY TODDY (1931):
1 can pitted cherries
2 tbsp grated orange rind
3 tbsp lemon juice
1 cup boiling water
2 tbsp sugar
1 qt. grape juice
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
Drain cherries from juice and chop them. Soak orange rind, lemon juice, cherry juice water and sugar for 15 minutes. More sugar may be added if needed. Add grape juice and spices and simmer for 15 minutes. Serve hot or chill and serve with shaved ice.9
MOCK “MINT JULEP” (1931):
1 cup lemon juice
1/2 cup water
1 bunch fresh mint
1 1/2 cup sugar
3 pt. ginger ale
Add mint leaves, sugar and water to lemon juice. Let stand 30 minutes. Pour over a large piece of ice and add ginger ale. Serve in small glasses.10
CIDER PUNCH (1931):
2 oranges, juiced
3 lemons, juiced
1 qt. cider
1 qt. grape juice
1 cup sugar
2 qt. water
Add a little of the grated rind of the orange and the lemon to their respective juices and stir in the sugar and cider. Place in punch bowl over block of ice and serve in sherbet glasses. Makes about 4 1/2 quarts.11
4 tart apples
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
2 tsp. allspice
1 tsp. ground cloves
4 two-inch sticks of cinnamon
4 oranges, juiced
2 lemons, juiced
1 cup sugar
2 qt. cider
Remove cores from apples and cut into rounds. Bake until tender but not too soft. Add spices, fruit juice and sugar to the cider and bring to boiling point. Put the baked apple rounds in a punch bowl and pour the hot cider over them. Serve hot.12
These vintage recipes aren’t the only New Year’s Eve mocktails available, however. There are tons of different reasons not to want to drink alcohol on New Year’s Eve, from not wanting to deal with a hangover the next day, to pregnancy, to being heavily medicated. Whatever your reason for not drinking, a lack of alcohol doesn’t mean you don’t get to have fun! There are tons of great festive drinks out there just waiting for you to try. Here’s a quick list of modern mocktail recipes, specifically tailored for New Year’s Eve:
Tablespoon offers 9 Non-Alcoholic Cocktails to Party Down With on New Year’s Eve, including Pear Tree Punch, Raspberry Frost Soda, and a Noel Spritzer, among others.
Bustle offers 13 drinks to help you ring in the New Year, featuring unusual drinks like a Pear Rosemary Spritzer, a fake Moscow Mule, a Lavender Cardamom Fizz, and a Pomegranate Chai Ginger Fizz.
Martha Stewart has 11 different non-alcoholic offerings for a dry New Year’s Eve.
Delish offers 16 different kinds of mocktails, both adult and kid-friendly.
Taste of Home has a ton of different mocktails, though not all of them are tailored to New Year’s/
Spaceships and Laserbeams offers 29 different drinks with tons of pretty Pintrest-ready pictures.
Is This Really My Life has 12 of the prettiest New Year’s Eve mocktails to serve to your guests.
What are YOU drinking this fine New Year’s Eve, dear readers? Share your picks or recipes in the Comments below. Cheers, and Happy New Year! 😀