Learn About Preserving Lost Silent Films with the Smithsonian and Movies Silently


A still from Within Our Gates, one of the films discussed in Fritzi Kramer’s article for the Smithsonian.


Guys! One of my favorite bloggers was published by Smithsonian Magazine! 😀


This month, one of my favorite bloggers was published by Smithsonian Magazine’s website. Fritzi Kramer’s excellent article, Why We Need to Keep Searching for Lost Silent Filmsdiscusses the search for and preservation of silent films featuring Diplomatic Henry (1915), a film previously thought to be lost forever. Kramer herself is passionate about preserving silent films, which is no surprise given she was involved in releasing one herself! Using footage from the Library of Congress, she was able to recreate a 1917 “night at the movies” DVD, which contains the film Kidnapped (1917) and four other short films. Thanks to the magic of Kickstarter and Kramer’s efforts, these films are now available to modern audiences for the first time in 100 years. That’s pretty dang cool!
kidnapped cover

The cover to Kramer’s DVD set, which you can buy here on Amazon.

When not working to help save silent films from spontaneous combustion (not kidding) or collective cultural memory loss, Ms. Kramer is busy running her excellent blog, Movies Silently. If you’re a fan of silent films, you’ll enjoy this goldmine classic and obscure films, actors, actresses, and Silent Era trivia—and even if you’re not, I guarantee you’ll find something to enjoy. Kramer’s wit, sense of humor, and clear love of these films make her writing shine. Her film reviews alone are both entertaining and informative, and not just limited to silents; she covers “talkie” versions of silent films as well, and the comparisons are often very interesting. Personally, I find I can lose hours here just poking through her vast troves of content. Kramer doesn’t just focus on films, however. Here are a few of her other interesting recurring topics:

So if you’ve got the time, I’d definitely recommend checking out her blog. I promise you won’t be disappointed! 😀


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C is for Cocktail: A Hot Drink to Warm Up Your Winter, Courtesy of Harry Craddock


harry craddock illo savoy cropped

An illustration of Mr. Craddock, from The Savoy Cocktail Book (1930)


In 1925 London, “hot cocktails” were all the rage thanks to Harry Craddock, that famous Savoy bartender, whom a pond-hopping Chicago Tribune reporter cited as “providing a hot cocktail for visitors from the cold outside world,” using “a new shaker” with “a hot water jacket that is replenished at regular intervals by an assistant.”1 Craddock was said to have had “three special mixtures” meant for his hot shaker, and his drinks were all the rage that winter, drawing folks to the Savoy to have a nice hot cocktail on a cold winter’s day.2

But what wonderful concoction was Craddock making, exactly? To find out, I turned once again to the gorgeous Savoy Cocktail Book (1930), Craddock’s masterwork of vintage cocktail recipes—and it turns out that, aside from the outlandish Ale Flip, the only drink served hot in the entire book was…



hot gin sling drink

Photo Source: EdibleDC

Dissolve 1 Teaspoon of Sugar in Water.

1 Glass Dry Gin.

1 Lump of Ice.

Serve in long tumbler and fill with water or soda; if served hot a little nutmeg [grated] on top. (Craddock, pg. 190)



When I first read Craddock’s recipe, I was rather surprised. To begin with, I’m not really a fan of gin, but…HOT gin?! That sounded even worse! :p

According to this Huffington Post article, however, hot gin is actually pretty great—especially if you don’t like gin. Once heated, “certain flavor compounds” in gin are suppressed, and the “botanical notes” come out more clearly, giving the drink a new “depth of flavor” that it otherwise lacks when cold.

Thanks to this “more spicy, floral, or fruity” kick, hot gin became a popular holiday drink in Britain during the 1700s, where it was a featured part of outdoor fairs on the frozen Thames. It was also a popular drink in Colonial America, where it was considered particularly “American” in nature and was related to flips, another hot alcoholic drink.

As a result, hot gin slings are common in many early cocktail guides prior to Craddock’s time. Technically, the drink can be served either hot or cold, as this recipe from Thomas Stuart’s Fancy Drinks and How to Mix Them (1904) shows, but both varieties are present. Interestingly, some vintage recipes, like this one in Tim Daly’s Bartender’s Encyclopedia (1903), call for Holland gin instead—which technically isn’t gin at all, though it is flavored with juniper. One might also argue that they’re related to skins, which are cocktails made with hot water, a strong spirit like brandy, gin, or whiskey, and a twist of lemon. Some recipes, like this one from George Kappeler’s Modern American Drinks (1900), combine both by directing the bartender to “add a piece of lemon peel” and “grate a little nutmeg on top,” as for a Hot Brandy Sling, while swapping out the brandy for gin.

Whatever recipe you pick, however, it seems that hot gin has become increasingly popular in the past couple years, especially around Christmas time. According to Good Housekeeping, you can expect drinks featuring hot gin on winter menus this year, especially in the form of Gin Hot Toddies, an alternative to the classic Hot Toddy.

Want to add some hot gin to spice up your own drink this winter? If so, Huffington Post writer Nastasha Hinde recommends “heating it gradually in a saucepan” on the stove, “but make sure you don’t burn or boil it,” because too much heat will “easily weaken the alcohol content” if you’re not careful.

Have you ever had a sip of hot gin, dear readers? If so, did you like it or not? And what did it taste like to you—fruity, floral, or something else? Or maybe you’ve had one of its cousins, the Singapore Sling? If so, I’d love to know what you thought of it. Let me know in the Comments section below! 🙂


Works Cited (The Ones Without Hyperlinks):

1. Nancy, R. “Winter Tempered to London by Newest in Drinks–Hot Cocktail.” Chicago Daily Tribune (1923-1963), Dec 30, 1925. https://search.proquest.com/docview/180739888?accountid=3688.

2. Ibid.

Posted in 1920s fads, 1920s vintage recipes, C is for Cocktail series, drink recipes | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Got 15 Minutes to Spare this New Year’s Eve? Then Why Not Save a Piece of History?

The Library of Congress needs YOUR help to transcribe over 28,000 thousand letters sent to President Abraham Lincoln by the end of TONIGHT. Why not take a moment today to help them reach their goal?



This gorgeous image of old-fashioned post office boxes comes from the Kansas City Local Blogger


On October 28th, 2018, Mental Floss put out a call: the Library of Congress needed help transcribing thousands of letters to Abraham Lincoln, all of which had been scanned into a massive online database that was now open to the public. Since then, over 28,000 pages in the Letters to Lincoln campaign have been transcribed by online volunteers, with the goal of getting the entire collection processed IN FULL by December 31st, 2018. If you’d like to help now, go to the Library of Congress’ Crowd site, hit the “Let’s Go!” button, and you’ll be sent immediately to a document that needs transcribing.

The first time I tried it, I got a letter about soldier recruitment in Albany that was addressed to William H. Seward, the U.S. Secretary of State during the Civil War. The second time, I got an 1881 Christmas entry in Clara Barton’s diary. The third time, I got a letter from some presidential admirer who sent Lincoln a tub of butter to help him “regain his strength”—definitely the oddest in the bunch! All of them, however, were super fun to transcribe. 😀 Not only was it fun trying to decipher a bunch of crazily beautiful old-school cursive handwriting, but it was great to know that I was doing something that directly contributed to our larger understanding of history in a way that will benefit future generations—and you can do it, too!

Need some convincing first? Then read on! 🙂



This handwriting sample comes from the Nova Scotia Archives.




There are tons of reasons why squinting at crazy handwritten cursive is worth a bit of your time and effort. Here are a few of mine:

It brings the past to life: Personal documents like letters and diaries can be a powerful way to bring historical events to life, creating a feeling of connection to a distant past by making it more immediate and human. This can be a powerful teaching tool. Your history students might not care about, say, the Battle of Gettysburg—but they might care more if they had to spend a week transcribing a soldier’s letters home.

It makes more information accessible to computers—as well as future historians: Technology changes constantly, but right now computers are still awful at figuring out cursive handwriting, much less when it varies widely from person to person—but they can understand and catalog typed text, and historians of the future will certainly rely on such records. Transcribing these collections also helps to preserve them in another way, as data degrades a much slower rate than paper—and once that information is online, not only will it potentially live on forever, but people will be able to access it worldwide, increasing accessibility as well.

It helps institutions and universities with low manpower to better understand their collections: Thousands of historic documents that could take years or decades for a small group of professional staff to transcribe can be sorted within months or days once the public gets involved. And once that work is done, institutions can focus on the next big step—interpreting that data and fitting it into a larger historical context.

It will help you internalize period voice: For those of you who write historical fiction, what better way to internalize period-specific word choice, turns of phrase, and vocabulary than by transcribing actual historic documents from the time period you’re writing about?

It contributes directly to the preservation and understanding of history: If you have an interest in history, then why not jump at the chance to help do something directly to help preserve, understand, and add to our collective knowledge of the past—especially if it will only take a few minutes of your time?

So are you sold on this transcription thing yet, dear readers? No? Well, then, read on! 🙂




If you don’t find any of the earlier reasons compelling, then why not this one: old handwriting is beautiful in and of itself—and there’s even an entire field of study dedicated to it. Paleography is the study of ancient and historical handwriting, and as an art and a skill it is fascinating in its own right. It can also be quite challenging at times, but that’s also part of the fun, as you try to puzzle out what a particular word or letter might be.

For example, just because an old document is written in English doesn’t mean a native English speaker can instantly read and understand it. Not only did people’s handwriting vary from person to person—for example, one man’s “the” might look exactly like his “it’s,” I problem I ran into with the last letter I transcribed—but language changes over time. Being aware of abbreviations, notations, turns of phrase, and context can help a lot, particularly when you are having trouble identifying a word. While each of the projects I’ll be listing later has their own specific guidelines, here are a few general tips to keep in mind for any of them:

For most of human history, spelling wasn’t standardized, so something could be spelled phonetically in one document and not in another, and both would be considered “correct” for the time period. Even if you know something is spelled wrong, however, it’s important to mark it down exactly as written, using [sic] to indicate it wasn’t a mistake. These variations in spelling help linguists understand how words evolve and change over time.

Slow, careful reading, especially at the beginning of a new document, is necessary to try and decipher another person’s handwriting. Familiar words can be rendered quite strange when written in a different hand. Read carefully and slowly as you go at first and you’ll get faster as time goes on, especially if you’re working with documents written by the same person as you become used to the quirks of their handwriting.

Start with identifying individual letters, then go on to words. Since each individual writes differently, you need to be able to understand how they write particular letters before you can attempt to pick out words. Going through and comparing letters is essential. Someone whose writing of f, s, and j all look the same can lead to a lot of potential transcription mistakes if you haven’t taken the time to do this.

Context is important. Sometimes, there will be words you simply can’t read. Being able to read the rest of the sentence, however, can at least help you make a guess. If you do make a guess, it must be marked as such (each project will have a different way to do this), but there’s no shame in marking something as illegible to you, either—documents are reviewed by multiple people, so something you can’t read might be understandable to someone else.

Don’t stress about getting every single word—and don’t guess when you’re not sure. Sometimes, no matter what you do, you will end up with words you can’t decipher, and that’s okay. In that case, it’s better to mark a word as “[???]” than trying to put in your best guess. All the projects I will be linking you to are all peer reviewed, so someone will be double-checking your work later, and they might be able to figure out that word you missed. And even if they can’t, it’s better to err on the side of caution rather than make a potentially costly mistake.

If you want more tips on paleography, there are tons of great resources online. The National Archives of England has an online course for transcribing English historical documents, complete with practice pieces. This excellent 2014 transcription guide from the Natural History Museum has a ton of great information as well. Lone Star College has a nice guide to paleography too, particularly as it pertains to U.S. history—and there’s even a mini-game where you have to decipher old handwriting to save a woman from drowning. My poor woman drowned almost immediately, sadly. Hopefully you’ll have better luck than me! 😉





So, are you ready to try transcribing your first historical document? Yes? That’s wonderful, because there are TONS of people all over the internet that could really use your help! Here’s a list of sites to get you started:

~ American History ~

For anyone interested in contributing to the preservation of American history, there are tons of great options besides the Library of Congress. Try one of these:

Become a Citizen Archivist for the National Archives and Records Administration: Unfortunately, you MUST register to begin helping, but once you do, you have a choice  between a variety of different “Missions.” While there are too many to list here in full, some of the more interesting ones are soldier’s World War II diaries, litigation records from the landmark Radium Girls court case, and court documents related to the slave revolt on La Amistad.

Become a Digital Volunteer for the Smithsonian: If you think that variety is the spice of life, then this is the transcription job for you! The Smithsonian has more detailed instructions for their volunteers than others on this list, but they make up for it with a truly breathtaking array of projects. There are currently 19 active projects when I last counted, with new ones added regularly. That’s way too many for me to list here in full, but some interesting ones are a large amount of papers from early Native American ethnologist Alice Cunningham Fletcher, a Japanese solider’s WWII diary, and a lavishly illustrated French Artillery catalog from 1757—and that’s just within the Smithsonian archives! You can also search for more projects via one of their many partner institutions as well. With projects organized around themes like “Woman’s History,” “Arts & Design,” “Civil War Era,” “Biodiversity,” and more, you’ll be sure to find something you’d like to try! 🙂

Preserve Colonial History With the State of Virginia: Virginia’s State Library has recently opened its digital archives to public transcribers. Interesting topics include collections of Colonial era papers about the founding of the state of Virginia and African American slave narratives.

Help the U.S. War Department Sift Through Old War Records: The U.S. War Department has over 45,000 documents that need transcribing! Unfortunately, their transcription services will be down through 2019 due to a site redesign, but once it’s back up and running, they could really use the help. You can get a sneak peak at the new transcription layout here.

Transcribe Handwritten Recipes with The University of Iowa: The University offers lots of projects, including Civil War diaries and over 300 handwritten cookbooks from the Chef Louis Szathmary Culinary Collection.

Make Grandma Proud By Transcribing Old Census Records: If genealogy is more your thing, then you can contribute to the field directly by helping to transcribe over 4.2 million microfilms of historical documents from 110 different countries by working with FamilySearch.org, a free genealogy database that’s run by The Church of Jesus Christ of Later-Day Saints. They’ve already processed over 1 billion documents since 2008, but they could always use more!

Help Stanford University Archives Document the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake: You might be surprised to know that Stanford University was also hit by the 1906 earthquake that destroyed a significant part of San Francisco and the Bay Area—and they have an entire historical collection to prove it. You can help transcribe it here, as well as metric tons of alumni papers, letters from WWI and WWII, and other material on student life.

Taste History With the New York Public Library: One particularly unique project is the New York Public Library’s “What’s on the Menu?” collection, which features historic menus that need transcribing. You can even help them locate the sites of old restaurants on Google maps.

The Library of Congress is More Than Just Lincoln’s Letters: If you still want to help the Library of Congress but don’t care about Lincoln, there are other options as well. You could transcribe scouting reports from baseball legend Branch Rickey, personal diaries from nursing pioneer Clara Barton, “the Angel of the Battlefield,” penmanship contests for disabled Civil War veterans, and personal papers from Mary Church Terrell, one of the early founders of the NAACP.

~ International History ~

If you speak another language and are interested in topics beyond American history, you might want to try lending a hand to institutions in other countries, many of which have documents in other languages that need translating as well as transcribing. In this list, you will find European, English, and Australian projects on a wide variety of topics:

Examine British War Diaries: Operation War Diary is a wonderful place to start transcribing if you’re interested in the British side of World War I. Featuring documents from England’s National Archives, many of the unit diaries catalog troop movements and offer insights into preparing for battle and army life. There are also more technical documents like signals pads, reports, troop movements, and unit orders to transcribe. And if you don’t feel like trying to decipher whole pages, you can also “tag” pages for named soldiers, which helps with site indexing and future research.

Use European Languages to Puzzle Out WWI Documents: Do you know Italian, French, German, Dutch, Spanish, Greek, Polish, or Romanian? Then Europeana wants YOU! Since 2016, Transcribathon: Europeana Transcribe 1914-1918 has been transcribing over 200,000 personal documents pertaining to WWI that come from all over Europe. Interestingly, Europeana hosts transcription events as well, the most recent one being held in Brussels as part of the WWI Centenary. Instead of focused collections, Europeana features live “runs” on particular topics, where they host online events in an attempt to completely transcribe a collection within a certain amount of time. One particularly fun one featured WWI love letters.

Contribute to Climate Change Science by Transcribing Arctic Weather Reports From the 1800s: Do you like weather? Then why not take a few minutes to transcribe naval weather observations from the 19th century over at Old Weather? Far from being a pointless exercise, transcribing this data adds to scientist’s climate change knowledge by cataloging what the average temperature in the Arctic USED to be like—which helps us figure out how much things have changed since then, and how they might change in the future.

Help Add Words to the Oxford English Dictionary—And Learn About Shakespeare: Believe it or not, there are still thousands of handwritten documents related to Shakespeare that have yet to be transcribed. Why not help the Folger Shakespeare Library, Oxford University, and the Oxford English Dictionary get a handle on their collection over at Shakespeare’s World. Not only will you get to learn about daily life in Elizabethan England, but you’ll also get to add NEW words to the Oxford English Dictionary! Many words and word variant spellings have been found in these letters which exist nowhere else—so not only will you be adding to our collective understanding of William Shakespeare, but to the English language as well!

Carve Out Your Own Space on the Jeremy Bentham Transcription Leaderboard: The University College of London is still looking for help in transcribing over 60,000 digitized manuscript folios of philosopher Jeremy Bentham, who is considered to be the father of utilitarianism. Once you make an account at the Transcription Desk, you can start right away. There’s an entire transcribing community for this project as well, with a project blog, themed challenges, and a leaderboard if you’re feeling competitive 😉.

Sick of Europe? Try Canada!: If you’re sick of Europe and America, the Royal BC Museum in Canada could also use your help. Projects include WWI letters, diaries, and scrapbooks. The Nova Scotia Archives could use some help too.

~ You! ~

Lastly, do YOU need help deciphering old handwritten items, like your grandfather’s war diaries or family letters? Then why not start your OWN crowdsourcing transcription project? FromThePage is a piece of FREE open-source transcription software that’s been used by universities like Stanford to transcribe and preserve historic documents with the help of the public. Just download the program, scan in your documents, tell the internet about it, and watch the help roll on in! 🙂


Well there you have it, folks—-welcome to the glorious world of transcribing historical documents. I hope this list encourages you to give transcription a try, and maybe save a tiny piece of history for next year. And on that note…

May You All Have a Happy & Prosperous New Year! 😀



This awesome 1912 postcard is on sale over at CardCow.com.

Posted in link post, list post, primary source review | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Convicts in the Kitchen: Rural Jails in 1920s and 1930s America

sheriff-wife_washing turnips

A sheriff’s wife washes turnip greens in her home sink, possibly only a few feet away from the local jail cell. Image Source: CrimeReads


Hello dear readers! Today, as a quick aside, I thought you all might enjoy this nifty true crime post which I ran across recently on one of my Facebook groups about 1920s history. This one comes from the folks over at CrimeReads, a “cultural website” that strives to bring you “the best writing from the worlds of crime, mystery, and thrillers,” with contributors ranging from mystery authors to publishers to librarians.

This particular post was written by Laurie Lowenstein, a new author whose debut mystery book, Death of a Rainmaker, comes out this month from Akashic Books. In the post, Lowenstein describes some of the historical research she did for her novel, which features a sheriff and his wife trying to solve a murder in a small Oklahoma town during the Dust Bowl in 193. As a result, she did a lot of research about rural police forces, and found something quite surprising and interesting: many rural jail cells in the 1920s and 1930s were actually part of the sherriff’s house!

One particularly memorable quote about this fact comes from a book called The Secret Life of the Lawman’s Wife by B. J. Alderman, which documented jail conditions in rural Michigan:

“The jail cells were behind the family quarters. Prisoners came in through the side door, went through the sheriff’s office and right into the cell area….the male prisoners were fed by lining up outside the kitchen door that had a 2 ½-by-2 ½-foot barred pass-through in the door between the family quarters and the cells.”

And the connections between a sheriff’s home and prisoners didn’t end there—his wife often had just as much a hand in dealing with the criminals as he did. In counties where funds and resources were scare, sheriff’s wives did everything from cooking meals and darning socks to booking prisoners and holding off angry lynch mobs with shotguns. As a result, jail time would have had an extremely different feel than, say, Chicago—and as Lowenstein points out, it offers a huge amount of dramatic conflict potential for anyone setting a piece of historical fiction in that time and place.

For more excellent bits of information about this topic, and to see examples of how Lowenstein worked these bits of history into her new book, check out the rest of Lowstein’s post over at CrimeReads—and be sure to check out the rest of their fascinating true crime material as well! 🙂

Posted in 1920s criminals, link post | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

C is for Cocktail: Celebrate the Savoy with a Classic 1920s Cocktail by Forgotten Bartender Ada Coleman

This July, the Savoy Hotel’s American Bar in London earned a slew of coveted cocktail awards at the Tales of the Cocktail conference in New Orleans: Best International Bar Team, Best International Bar, and World’s Best Bar, an award they won last year as well, not to mention in 2016 and 2015.


bartender at Savoy American Bar London CNN travel

A bartender shakes it up at the Savoy bar in London. Source: CNN Travel


For those already familiar with the history of cocktails, such accolades will come as no surprise. Since it opened its doors in 1898, the Savoy American Bar has been churning out classic cocktails, thanks in no small part to its talented staff, many of whom have gone down in history as some of the best and most creative bartenders in the world—chief among them, of course, being Harry Craddock, one of the most important bartenders of the 20th century.


harry craddock tends bar

The legendary Harry Craddock pours a cocktail at the Savoy’s American Bar.     Photo Source: Alchetron


Born in Gloucestershire, Craddock immigrated to America in 1897, where he became a U.S. citizen while honing his bartending skills at places like New York’s Knickerbocker Hotel. When Prohibition hit, Harry fled for England—but not before supposedly mixing “the last legal cocktail in the United States.”1

It was the Savoy’s American Bar in London, however, where Craddock really took off. Attracted to his flashy American-style cocktails—and his novel accent—Craddock’s innovative drinks and personal flair drew huge crowds and turned the Savoy into an epicenter of cocktail creation. Known as the originator of the White Lady and the Corpse Reviver #2, Craddock claimed to have created over 240 drinks during his lifetime. However, he’s most famous today for a different creation: The Savoy Cocktail Book (1930).


abe books savoy cocktail book cover 1930

The original cover to the first edition of The Savoy Cocktail Book (1930). You can buy a first edition today for around $500 here at Abe Books, too!


Created at the request of the Savoy Hotel, Craddock’s gorgeous Art Deco book features over 700 recipes and is still considered the gold standard of London’s bartenders—not to mention nearly everyone else. Craddock’s book is revered among cocktail afficionados, and not just for its recipes. As PUNCH notes, it’s also “a snapshot of an era,” with its “dry observations, art-deco cartoons, and ruminations on the culture of drinking” giving today’s readers a good idea of the time period in which it was made. If you’ve got the time, I’d definitely suggest either taking a peek at it here, or watch a video review here, or even purchase it on Amazon (it hasn’t been out of print since 1930, so it’s easy to get your own copy).


corpse reviver from savoy cocktail book pg 80

A sample illustration and a dash of wit from The Savoy Cocktail Book (1930), page 80.


There’s another Savoy bartender, however, whose legacy has been lost in Craddock’s shadow—one that might have been put there deliberately by Craddock himself.

Ada Coleman, the Savoy’s first woman bartender and an inventor of famous cocktails in her own right, first started mixing drinks at the age of twenty four, when she joined the bar staff of Claridge’s Hotel in London. Talented, charismatic, and quick to learn the trade, Ada soon found more work at the Savoy’s American Bar, where she became head bartender in 1903.

Considered “an icon of her time,” Ada was beloved by her customers for her personality just as much as her drinks. Nicknamed “Coley” by her regulars and a devotee of musical theater (she even held musical entertainments in her home), Ada’s vivaciousness managed to charm the pants off her rich and famous customers, who included everyone from the Prince of Wales to Mark Twain. The Earl of Lonsdale wrote of her that “the kindness and energy displayed by Miss Coleman was marvelous and she was so nice…so kind and…full of life.” Customers flocked to her. As cocktail historian Ted Haigh notes in his excellent book Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails, “not only was…she…a woman in a world of male bartenders, it was she who made [the Savoy] famous.”2


ada coleman 1

Ada Coleman behind the bar of the Savoy. Source: Sipsmith


Yet, despite all her fame and skill, Ada may have been fired due to straight up misogyny—specifically that of Harry Craddock himself.

According to Anistatia Miller and Jared Brown’s 2013 book The Deans of Drink, Harry started actively campaigning against Ada as soon as he arrived at the Savoy for a variety of unsavory reasons. Freelance writer Keith Allison, writing for The Alcohol Professor, sums up Craddock’s campaign rather well:

“Craddock didn’t just think that he shouldn’t be subservient to a female bartender; he didn’t think women belonged behind a bar at all (a silly opinion given the fact that, since the earliest days of taverns, women played key roles as both drink makers and owners). According to Craddock, citing his experience in America as an American, his fellow countrymen would be put off by the presence of a woman behind the bar.

There is absolutely nothing in the career of Ada Coleman as the head bartender at the American Bar to back this up. She was, by all accounts, supremely popular and her skill as a bartender much praised by all for whom she mixed a drink, Americans included. But Craddock was a persuasive voice in the ear of the hotel’s management, convincing them that they would be better off with an American — and a man — in charge. By 1924, he had successfully forced Coleman and Burgess out of the American Bar. Fearing that such foul treatment of a beloved icon of the Savoy in particular and London in general would result in blowback, The Savoy convinced Ada to frame it as a retirement. In 1925, Harry Craddock was promoted to the position of head bartender at the American Bar. Ada Coleman was transferred.

To the hotel’s flower shop.” —Spies at the Savoy, Part Three

While this Daily Beast article offers other theories, and Wikipedia insists that she never worked at the Savoy’s flower shop, the fact is that she did leave, and with her went seemingly all of her fame. It didn’t help, either, that out of his 700 recipes in the Savoy Cocktail Book, Craddock only credits one of them to her by name: her signature drink, the Hanky Panky.

While today the term “hanky panky” conjures up some naughty fun, in England at the time it referred to “something closer to magic or witchcraft,” and it was in that spirit that Coleman invented the drink. She did so at the request of her friend, the famous actor Sir Charles Hawtrey, mentor to Noel Coward (NOT this Carry On guy, by the way). In a 1925 newspaper interview, Ada described the drink’s creation in detail:

“Charles…was one of the best judges of cocktails that I knew. Some years ago, when I was overworking, he used to come into the bar and say, ‘Coley, I am tired. Give me something with a bit of punch in it.’ It was for him that I spent hours experimenting until I had invented a new cocktail. The next time he came in, I told him I had a new drink for him. He sipped it, and, draining the glass, he said, ‘By Jove! That is the real hanky-panky!’ and Hanky-Panky it has been called ever since.”3

A large part of the drink’s “punch” comes from the unusual addition of Fernet Branca, an Italian herbal liqueur with an “aggressive bite of menthol” and a “black-as-night and bitter-as-winter” cast to it that is “not for the faint of heart,” according to author Orr Shtuhl in An Illustrated Guide to Cocktails.4 But for those who can handle the fernet, it’s agreed that the Hanky Panky is worth it. Interested in trying it for yourself? Recipes for vintage and modern versions can be found below.



This vintage recipe comes from The Savoy Cocktail Book (1930). As I said earlier, it is the only drink in the entire book which Craddock credits to Ada—a highly unlikely scenario, given the fact that she worked as head bartender there for twenty three years before him and was well-known for experimenting with her wares. I suppose we’re lucky, then, that he kept it in the book at all :p.

hanky panky with jiggers

A Hanky Panky cocktail with jiggers and a decorative orange peel. Source: Imbibe Magazine

2 Dashes Fernet Branca.

1/2 Italian Vermouth.

1/2 Dry Gin.

Shake well and strain into cocktail glass. Squeeze orange peel on top. (The Savoy Cocktail Book, 1930, page 80).



This modern-day version, which comes from Lesley Blume’s book Let’s Bring Back: the Cocktail Edition: A Compendium of Impish, Romantic, Amusing, and Occasionally Appalling Potations from Bygone Eras (2012), increases the vermouth and gin but otherwise doesn’t deviate much from the original recipe.

1 ounce Italian vermouth

1 ounce of dry gin

2 dashes fernet-branca

Ice cubes

1 orange peel twist for garnish

Shake with ice and strain over ice into a highball glass.

Garnish with an orange peel twist and serve with a spanking.5


These days, innovation at the Savoy American Bar continues, both in drinks and in bartenders. The current cocktail menu, called “Every Moment Tells a Story,” is inspired by photographs of iconic celebrities that have adorned the bar’s walls since the 1980s. As a result, it features cocktails created in honor of David Bowie, Frank Sinatra, Marlene Dietrich, Mick Jagger, and many others.

Soon, however, the Savoy’s cocktails will be crafted by new hands. Respected master bartender Eric Lorincz, who was nominated last year at Tales of the Cocktail for International Bartender of the Year, stepped down in May of 2018 to make way for Maxim Schulte, a German-born rising star of the bartending world with experience in Asia and the Middle East. Regardless of who is at the helm, it will be fascinating to see what the Savoy American Bar comes up with next.


Works Cited:
  1. Nancy, R. “Winter Tempered to London by Newest in Drinks–Hot Cocktail.” Chicago Daily Tribune (1923-1963), Dec 30, 1925. https://search.proquest.com/docview/180739888?accountid=3688.
  2. Haigh, Ted. 2009. Vintage cocktails and forgotten spirits: from the alamagoozlum cocktail to the zombie and beyond : 100 rediscovered recipes and the stories behind them. Gloucester, Mass: Quarry Books. Page 160.
  3. Blume, Lesley M. M., and Grady McFerrin. 2012. Let’s bring back: the cocktail edition–a compendium of impish, romantic, amusing, and occasionally appalling potations from bygone eras. San Francisco: Chronicle Books. https://www.overdrive.com/search?q=78FBAEF9-3334-4C75-A963-8FCE5611E6C6. Page 83.
  4. Blume, Lesley M. M., and Grady McFerrin. 2012. Let’s bring back: the cocktail edition–a compendium of impish, romantic, amusing, and occasionally appalling potations from bygone eras. San Francisco: Chronicle Books. https://www.overdrive.com/search?q=78FBAEF9-3334-4C75-A963-8FCE5611E6C6. Page 117.
  5. Blume, Ibid.
Posted in 1920s vintage recipes, C is for Cocktail series, drink recipes | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

This 1931 Chicago Gangland Map Could Be Yours…For Only 20,000 English Pounds!

gangland map 1931 funny

Looking to own a colorful piece of Chicago history? This amazingly intricate and humorous map of Chicago’s 1930s gangland, entitled “A Map of Chicago’s Gangland from Authentic Sources,” is going on sale this June at a London auction house. The bidding will start at a mere 20,000 pounds, or roughly $26,500 U. S. dollars.

Why so much money? Well, it turns out that real vintage copies of these particular maps are actually quite rare. While they were clearly made to capitalize on Hollywood’s glorification of gangsters during the early 1930s (think Little Ceasar (1931), The Public Enemy (1931), and Scarface: Shame of a Nation (1932)), most of the originals were destroyed prior to Chicago’s 1933 Century of World’s Progress Fair, and event which is also depicted on the map itself. Unfortunately, Fair promoters saw the map as “not painting the picture of Chicago they wanted,” according to auctioneer Daniel Crouch, who will be auctioning off the map from London-based Daniel Crouch Rare Books. As a result, most were destroyed, which makes the remaining ones worth quite a lot.

It’s a shame that it’s rare, however, since the map is definitely worth a look in spite of the image of Chicago it promotes. It’s a wonderfully intricate piece of illustration, with every inch jam-packed with famous gangsters, nods to famous gangland events like the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, tons of cheeky macabre humor (like all the little skulls-and-crossbones that mark where criminals died), plus hundreds of tiny gangsters, bootleggers and coppers running all over the place. There’s even a short glossary of gangland terms!

Check out some of these fun, colorful details in the images below:


empty prison 1931 map

This caption of the city prison, “the only empty jug in Chicago,” offers a pretty solid example of the kind of humor found in this map. Source: CARLI Digital Collections


four deuces at wabash 1931 map

Unsurprisingly, Capone dominates in many parts of the map. Here is a snapshot of The 4 Deuces, where Al got his real start in Chicago. The red lights indicate brothels, while the skull-and-crossbones refer to where gangsters were killed. Source: CARLI Digital Collections


gangster funeral 1931 map

A small illustration of a lavish gangster funeral, complete with trucks full of flower wreaths. Source: CARLI Digital Collections


st val massacre 1931 map

Al’s massacre is marked as Site 11 of famous gangland slayings. Source: CARLI Digital Collections


gangster hedge trimming 1931 map

Another wry bit of humor from the map. LOL! 😉 Source: CARLI Digital Collections


gangland dictionary 1931 map

While many of these will likely already be familiar to you, dear readers, some were new to me—particularly the term “cold meat” for a corpse. Fairly solid otherwise, though. Source: CARLI Digital Collections


gangland map title Capone

The full title of this map is a pretty clear indication, I think, that the map makers were mostly just having fun here and not taking this too seriously—too bad the Fair promoters did. Source: CARLI Digital Collections


While these images are certainly fun, in terms of real Chicago gangland history much of the map is woefully inaccurate. In an interview with the Chicago Tribune, John Binder, professor emeritus at the University of Illinois of Chicago on organized crime (and author of numerous books on Chicago history, including his latest on Al), explains some of the more blatant mix-ups:

“Gangs are in the wrong territories, territories are mislabeled and despite a label saying the Chicago Sanitary & Ship Canal was a “favorite” place to dispose of them, there are few recorded instances of bodies being dumped in the river during the era of the map…They’re showing the West Side O’Donnell gang as being around Douglas Park. That was controlled by the Valley gang.”

canal for body dumps nt 1931 map

The canal label that Binder objects to. Source: CARLI Digital Collections

For lovers of Chicago history, however, such discrepancies only add to the charm of the piece—and it’s value.

If you’re not in the mood to hop on a plane to London and take a stab at bidding, however, you can check out the entire map in great detail here at the CARLI digital collections. Or, if you must have your very own copy (and don’t want to fork over 20,000 pounds for the privilege), you can pick up a cheap reproduction for around $20 here at Transit Tees. 

If you’d like more info on the map itself, plus more historical commentary, check out this fun CBS news clip regarding the auction.


Posted in 1920s criminals, photo post, resource spotlight | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

A Word of Explanation

bottomless well intertitle

Intertitle from an “unidentified Captain Corri film”, according to the seemingly defunct Tumblr blog Silent Film Intertitles

Hello again, dear readers! 🙂

I’d like to apologize for my unexpected disappearance from the blogosphere for the past couple of months. Unfortunately, life got in the way, and what became a week of being unable to find time to produce content for this blog became two weeks and three weeks and then before I knew it, it had been more than a month since I’d posted anything here! 😦

So, I’d like to formally apologize to all of you that have been kind enough to follow my blog so far, and to let you know that this blog is NOT dead—but thanks to my current circumstances, it might take me a few more weeks before I can start posting regularly again. After that, though, I’ve got a few things in mind, starting with a book review of one of the new Al Capone bios that came out last year, plus a few more fun things relating to Big Al.

Until then, let me offer you a series of interesting 1920s links to check out, thanks to the endless stream of Google Alerts I receive every day…


Learn why female bartenders took so long to catch on in America at The Daily Beast


Do you love cocktails and live in Chicago? Then sign up here for vintage cocktail classes at The Violet Hour, one of Chicago’s premiere cocktail bars, which features a cool pre-Prohibition vibe and some rather explicit rules of conduct


Why do people order rum and Coke, rather than rum and Pepsi? Learn about the 1920s soda wars over at Vinepair


Or for something more timely, check out back when the NRA actually supported banning automatic weapons—thanks to Al Capone and the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, no less!


Remember how big the KKK was in the 1920s? Women were a big part of that, says author Linda Gordon—much like they are today


Disney World has a new speakeasy-style restaurant called The Edison which actually looks pretty cool


Check out these newly colorized photos of 1920s beauty pageant winners, or these colorized mugshots from the UK. Personally, I find digitally coloring old photos to be kinda wierd. What do you guys think?


Want to add some vintage flair to your summer wardrobe? Try these 1920s inspired unisex bathing suits that look great on men AND women!


Learn how REAL Ceasar Salad was made back in the 1920s—and where you can eat it today, no less


Apparently a funny note from 1925 about men and women has gone viral across Twitter and beyond


Learn how speakeasies paved the way for women drinking publicly over at JSTOR Daily



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Some Old-School Superstitions for Valentine’s Day

Valentines? Why, I never get a valentine,” said a teenage debutante to a Tribune society reporter in 1931.1 “Young men don’t even know that Feb. 14th is Valentine’s Day anymore.”2 Her counterpart in 1922 agreed. The practice of sending and receiving valentines, whether gifts or cards, was considered pointless, quaint, and unnecessary for such Bright Young Things, especially in the face of “such agencies as the telephone and automobiles.”3

Yet while teens and twenty-somethings were openly snubbing the holiday, many more were embracing it, particularly in Chicago. In 1929, an estimated $250,000 to $500,000 was spent on Valentine’s Day gifts in the city, with around one million cards sent by the mail.4 Kids “sat with bated breath” all school day, ready to pounce on their “elaborately decorated box” full of classroom valentines.5 And throughout the 1920s and 1930s, places like the Art Institute and the Chicago Historical Society featured exhibits of early valentines, mostly from the Victorian age—exhibits which were well attended by both young and old alike.

Superstitions from “ye olden times” (mostly rural England) abounded during Valentine’s Day in the Roaring Twenties as well, and many pieces of “ancient lore” were repeated in magazines, newspapers, and other periodicals of the day, adding a touch of magical fun to the holiday.

In that spirit, here are some fun old-time Valentine’s Day superstitions for you, dear readers, on this lovely day. 🙂 ❤


Behold, how e'er the Birds of Air Bow to the Power of Love, Divine

During the Middle Ages, birds were said to mate on St. Valentine’s Day. Source: Cardcow.com


Birds of Love:

“If a maid walks abroad in the morning of St. Valentine’s day, she may decide her future husband’s position by the aid of…[the] birds…she sees,” wrote Doris Blake for the Tribune.6 If she spies…

…a blackbird, she will marry a clergyman.

…a [robin] redbreast or a bunting, she will marry a sailor.

…a goldfinch, she will marry a millionaire.

…a “yellowbird” (probably a yellow warbler), she will marry a rich man.

…a sparrow, she will find “love in a cottage.”

…a bluebird, she will marry a poor man.

…a crossbill, she will have a quarrelsome husband.

…a wryneck, she will never marry.

…a flock of doves, then she will be lucky all year.7


Warding Off “Tainted” Love:

If a woman wishes to ward off evil in love, she should wear a yellow crocus on St. Valentine’s Day, for it is “the saint’s especial flower” and will protect her all year.8

Crocus-Beautiful Ever

Another CardCow.com


Count The Animals:

If a girl looks out into the street at first light on Valentine’s Day morning, “the number of animals she sees will tell her just how many years it will be before she marries.”9

A couple with Pig

This card echoes an old English folk verse about Valentine’s Day. Source: CardCow.com


Never Sign:

Never sign a valentine, for it will bring you bad luck and “will not be successful” in winning your sweetheart! 10

Cupid Carrying a Heart

What a cute postman! CardCow.com


A Valentine Spell:

If you receive an unsigned valentine today and you wish it came from a certain special someone, you can write their name down on a slip of paper, along with your own, and then tuck it under your pillow. Just before you fall asleep, recite the following verse:

“If he who sent this Valentine,

Is named above with mine;

I pray, good saint, that by this line,

I may his name divine.”11

gorgeous 1910s val card 40 bucks

This beautiful early 1900s card is on sale at CardCow right now for around $40!


Dreaming of You:

If you want to dream of the person you’re destined to marry, on the eve of St. Valentine’s day take 5 bay leaves and pin them to your pillow. Attach one to each corner and the last in the middle, then go to sleep. Whoever you dream of that night, you will marry them within the coming year.12

A St., Valentine Pipe Dream

Trippy, eh? Wonder what’s in that pipe… 😉 From CardCow.com


Eggs for Love:

If you want to make sure that the person you dreamt of on St. Valentine’s day will actually marry you before the year is over, boil an egg before bedtime, remove the yolk, fill the ensuing hole with salt, and then eat it, shell and all—and don’t speak a word until morning. This odd superstition dates back to 1756.13


Don’t Peep:

If you expect to be visited by your true love on Valentine’s Day, don’t open your eyes until they show up. If you see someone other than your sweetheart, it might mean you’ll lose their love!14

gute girl eyes val.jpg

Another cutie from CardCow.com


Fate of Clay:

Try this small fortune-telling game for Valentine’s day: write your friend’s names on pieces of paper, then roll them up, coat them with clay, and throw them into a dish of water: the first name that floats to the top will be the person you marry.15

Valentine Greetings

Valentine greetings for a friend. From CardCow.com


Blessed Union:

Marrying on Valentine’s day will bring “happiness and success” to the lucky couple.16

Cupid in Chains

Guess that’s one way to ensure your marriage… 😉 From CardCow.com


Spot Your Beloved:

The “first unmarried person of the other sex whom you see” on the morning of St. Valentine’s Day is “destined” to be your wife or husband by the end of the year.17


Gifts of Love:

When a man and a women meet on St. Valentine’s Day, whoever says “Good morrow, ’tis St. Valentine’s Day” first wins a present from the other person. This practice dates back to Shakespeare’s time. Even this guy wrote about it.18

boy gift girl val.jpg

A boy brings a girl a gift. CardCow.com!


❤ ~ What about you, dear readers? ~ ❤

Has anyone ever told you an old  Valentine’s Day superstition? Did you recognize any of the ones here? Or is there anything special you do on Valentine’s Day to bring luck in love? Feel free to share in the Comments below! 🙂


Works Cited:
1. Cass, Judith. “Young Society Forgets about Valentine’s Day.” Chicago Daily Tribune (1923-1963), Feb 14, 1933. https://search.proquest.com/docview/181388520?accountid=3688
2. Ibid.
3. Mme, X. “NEWS OF CHICAGO SOCIETY.” Chicago Daily Tribune (1872-1922), Feb 12, 1922. https://search.proquest.com/docview/174936623?accountid=3688
4. “WILL YOU BE MY VALENTINE? CITY HEARS OLD QUERY.” Chicago Daily Tribune (1923-1963), Feb 15, 1929. https://search.proquest.com/docview/180987410?accountid=3688
5. Ibid.
6. Blake, Doris. “VALENTINE LORE.” Chicago Daily Tribune (1872-1922), Feb 13, 1921. https://search.proquest.com/docview/174710416?accountid=3688
7. Ibid.
8. “A Friend in Need Sally Joy Brown.” Chicago Daily Tribune (1872-1922), Feb 11, 1920. https://search.proquest.com/docview/174576570?accountid=3688
9. Blake, Doris. “VALENTINE LORE.” Chicago Daily Tribune (1872-1922), Feb 13, 1921. https://search.proquest.com/docview/174710416?accountid=3688
10. Ibid.
11. De Young, Ruth. “ST. VALENTINE’S DAY FESTIVITIES OF ROMAN ORIGIN.” Chicago Daily Tribune (1923-1963), Feb 13, 1931. https://search.proquest.com/docview/181161455?accountid=3688
12. Cielo, Astra, 1861-1957. Signs, Omens And Superstitions. New York: G. Sully & company, 1918. See it here at HathiTrust on Page 37.
13. McSpadden, J. Walker 1874-1960. The Book of Holidays. New York: Thomas Y. Crowell company, 1917. See it here at HathiTrust on Page 47
14. Ibid.
15. Ibid.
16. Ibid.
17. Devereux, G. R. M. The Lover’s Dictionary Containing a Vast Amount of Information of Interest to Those In Love … London: Pearson, 1903. See it here at Hathitrust on Page 112.
18. Walsh, William Shepard, 1854-1919. Curiosities of Popular Customs And of Rites, Ceremonies, Observances, And Miscellaneous Antiquities. Philadelphia: Lippincott, 1925. See it here at Hathitrust on Page 956.
Posted in holiday post, Social Customs of the 1920s | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

New Roaring Twenties TV Shows Coming Out in 2018

I don’t know about you folks, but I’m a sucker for period dramas. If there’s a lavish set, gorgeous costumes, and tons of tiny historical details, I’m there with bells on—and that goes double for anything set during the Roaring Twenties!

If you feel the same, then this will be a great year, especially if you’re interested in what the 1920s were like around the world. This year features new dramas set in Germany, Canada, Australia, with returning series from Spain and England.

Let’s take a look, shall we? 🙂


Explore the Seedy Side of the Wienmar Era Republic

with Babylon Berlin:

babylon berlin promo 1

Setting: Berlin, 1929

Where to Watch: Netflix  or Sky Atlantic

Personally, I can’t wait to start watching Babylon Berlin, which hits Netflix on January 30th! Set during the Wienmar Republic in 1929, it looks gorgeous, dark, and risque—and it’s taken Germany TV by storm, rivaling Game of Thrones in terms of ratings and average number of viewers, not to mention cost. The entire thing took over $45 million to produce, which is currently the largest budget ever for a TV show. Plus it’s got great period music and tortured WWI vets. What more could you possibly want? 😉

Check out the trailer below:

You can learn more about the series here, including the  famous German novel which it’s based on.


Tap Into the Lives of Telephone Operators Again in Cable Girls:


Setting: Madrid, 1928

Where to Watch: Netflix

While the official release date has yet to be announced (it’s getting filmed this February), this year Cable Girls is set to go into its third season on Netflix. If you’re not already familiar with the Spanish melodrama, it follows the lives of four women telephone operators as they work for the new telephone exchange in Madrid during the late 1920s. While I’ve never seen it myself, it’s gotten great reviews, and apparently features strong feminist overtones, with each character reflecting different problems still facing women today. You can read a review of the show to date here at Bustle.

Here is the promo for Season 2, which became available on Netflix in late December 2017:


Solve Crimes in 1920s Toronto with Frankie Drake:

frankie drake promo header

Setting: Toronto, 1920s

Where to Watch: The Canadian Broadcasting Company has a website with episode clips, but right now I think you need to have access to CBC to see it in full, unless it’s on YouTube somewhere

This new mystery series, which follows a female private detective in 1920s Toronto, has been described as “silly as all get out“—but it’s also witty, breezy, full of gorgeous period details, and generally pretty fun, if a bit heavy-handed with the feminist messaging. While it was filmed in 2017, it’s actually airing now.

The following YouTube clip is from Episode 1:


Peaky Blinders Returns in 2019…

To Tangle with Al Capone???!

peaky blinders woot

Setting: Birmingham, England, 1920s

Where to Watch: Netflix, BBC Two

Okay, so it isn’t happening THIS year, but it’s worth repeating here: Peaky Blinders, the stylish crime melodrama about English gangsters in Birmingham during the 1920s, will be back in 2019 with it’s fifth and possible final season…which just might feature Al Capone!

How is this possible, you ask? It sounded ridiculous to me, but according to this Bustle interview, it’s actually more historically accurate than you’d think. While it’s unlikely that the actual Peaky Blinders gang ever interacted with New York mafia, there were some loose connections between american and European gangsters, so, it’s at least within the realm of historical possibility.

Either way, I’m sure it will be highly entertaining, especially since actor Stephen Graham may be reprising his role as Al Capone from HBO’s Boardwalk Empire. If so, that’d be pretty terrific!

And if you happen to be tuning in to Peaky Blinders somewhere in the UK, you can enjoy it with some show-themed booze, too: English brewer Sadler’s has an entire line of products dedicated to the TV show, with whiskey, gin, and rum, each one deliberately crafted with the show in mind. And if you’re not in the UK, don’t worry: you can also buy some on Amazon.


Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries Returns

in Movie Form with Miss Fisher and the Crypt of Tears

fisher tiny

Setting: Australia, 1920s

Where to Watch (the TV show): Stream it on Netflix, buy it on Amazon, or buy it from the BBC

The wonderful Australian series Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries may have ended in 2015, but a new movie trilogy may be on the horizon this year. The creators of the series recently launched a Kickstarter campaign to bring Miss Fisher back in a movie trilogy a la Indiana Jones, with lots of international intrigue and pizazz! If you’re a fan of Phryne Fisher and her adventures, you can contribute to the Kickstarter campagin here, or check out the IndieGoGo funding page here. And if that’s not enough, there was talk last year of a possible prequel series as well.

If you’ve never heard of Phryne Fisher, may I suggest you start with the books instead of the TV show? They’re terrific, quick reads, and Kerry Greenwood is a lovely writer—and they’re a great way to get into the TV show, which is also wonderful in a completely different way.



What about you, dear readers? Are you looking forward to any of these shows? Are there others you feel should be on this list? What other period dramas set in the 1920s have you enjoyed in the past? Please share in the Comments below! 🙂



Posted in link post, TV show review, video post | Tagged , , , , , | 5 Comments

Ring in the New Year With Some “Dry” Prohibition Drinks

Want to ring in the New Year with an unusual 1920s twist? Why not try a Prohibition cocktail…without any alcohol?



A Happy New Year

What you won’t find in this post: actual alcohol! This cute postcard from 1907 is on sale now at Cardcow.com, however.

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.


mock champagne cocktail 1 with raspberries


” 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.


fruit citrus punch nonalc.jpg


 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

Eddington also recommends Thomas’ Milk Punch, but I think a classic Tom & Jerry cocktail is better if you’re looking for something hot to ring in the new year.

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…



Okay, so this is really a hot toddy with booze, but the picture’s still valid, more or less, even without the cherries.



1 can pitted cherries

2 tbsp grated orange rind

3 tbsp lemon juice

1 cup boiling water

2 tbsp sugar

 1 qt. grape juice

4 cloves

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


mint julep fancy

Just because your drink doesn’t have any booze doesn’t mean it can’t look fancy! (This one does though)



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 fall

Technically this is Ambrosia Punch, but the image works.



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


wassail punch

Here we come a-wassailing, among the leaves so green…this lovely punch has a modern recipe here as well at Taste of Home


WASSAIL (1931):

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! 😀

Works Cited:
1. “The Inquiring Reporter.” Chicago Daily Tribune (1872-1922), Dec 29, 1920. https://search.proquest.com/docview/174755802?accountid=3688.
2. Ibid.
3. “The Inquiring Reporter.” Chicago Daily Tribune (1872-1922), Jan 02, 1922. https://search.proquest.com/docview/174929232?accountid=3688.
4. “The Inquiring Reporter.” Chicago Daily Tribune (1923-1963), Dec 31, 1928. https://search.proquest.com/docview/180980273?accountid=3688.
5. Eddington, Jane. “Here are Cups that Cheer but Don’t Inebriate.” Chicago Daily Tribune (1923-1963), Dec 29, 1928. https://search.proquest.com/docview/180940437?accountid=3688.
6. Ibid.
7. Ibid.
8. Ibid.
9. Potter, Paul. “NEW YEAR’S EVE GIVES IMPETUS TO FRUIT SALES.” Chicago Daily Tribune (1923-1963), Dec 30, 1931. https://search.proquest.com/docview/181263359?accountid=3688.
10. Ibid.
11. Ibid.
12. Ibid.
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