The History of Booze

The  Rock 'n' Roll Years

Back in Time 

for Drinks 1950s

Cocktail culture was well and truly established by this decade; no longer the preserve of the wealthy as soldiers returned from the war, bringing their experiences of tiki tastes. 


The Manhattan and The Cuba Libre were particularly popular with both men and women, but there was an emergence of sweeter cocktails for the drinkers with a more delicate palate. The sloe gin fizz, for example, was seen as being ladylike. Many of these new cocktails were blended with ice cream and fizz to replicate milkshakes or a visit to the soda fountain tap. One of the most famous of these cocktails was the White Russian; a simple blend of vodka, Kahlua and cream.The martini was also very popular, but without the vast variety that can be found today. The 50s martini consisted of gin, dry vermouth and a green olive. There was the inevitable debate about the dryness of a martini; the less vermouth used, the drier the martini. The second debate was as to how the martini should be mixed; as James Bond would say, “shaken and not stirred”.

Having said there was little variety, you could swap the olive for a pickled pearl onion (trying really hard not to wrinkle my nose as I write this) and thus you have a Gibson, not a martini.

Polynesian restaurants took off in 50s America, enter stage left, tropical cocktails and the infamous umbrella. From the simple cola and lime combo which created the Cuba Libre, to the Mai Tai, rum was the spirit of choice for many. Mix it with any number of combinations and the cocktail list just kept growing. The Pina Colada, threw pineapple and coconut into the mix, or as my gramps used to call it, “A Pee in a Coal Bucket” - don’t ask. The Zombie uses not one, but three types of rum; a real homage to the spirit. The Zombie was so powerful that some bars would limit consumption to just two per customer. It reminds me of the Billy Connolly interview where he talks about getting drunk from the legs up!

While all this alcohol, cream, sugary fruit juice and ice-cream was being consumed, there was a glancing effort by some to disguise cocktails as being healthy. The Bloody Mary, for example, with its tomato juice, celery stick and olives could hardly be thought of as bad for you - I mean it’s only a splash of vodka, darling.

Here are a couple of the less known cocktails for you to impress your guests with this summer.


Bay Breeze

Ocean Spray and the Cranberry Growers Association got together to find novel ways to sell more cranberry juice in the late 1940s. They turned their attention to the cocktail world and a brand new family of cocktails were born’; meet The Breezes! 


1.     Sea Breeze - grapefruit juice, cranberry juice and vodka

2.     Cape Codder - cranberry juice, lime juice and vodka and finally,

3.     Bay Breeze - cranberry juice, pineapple juice and vodka. 


Sadly, the cranberry craze fell flat because the cranberry crops were contaminated with toxic herbicides and the Health Department condemned them as unfit for human consumption. The Breeze was struck off the cocktail list. Thankfully, it got a re-boot in the 60s and went onto become a firm favourite by the 70s. Now, as well as wowing your guests with this fruity tipple, you can impress them with your historical knowledge of its interesting origin story.



45ml    Vodka

90ml    Cranberry juice

45ml    Pineapple juice

Garnish with a cocktail stick shish kebab of pineapple chinks



Add vodka, pineapple juice and cranberry juice into a highball glass and add ice.

Stir to mix.

Garnish with pineapple kebab.


The Pink Squirrel

This spectacular concoction was invented at Bryant’s Cocktail Lounge in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in the 1950s; the sister to the Grasshopper. It has a shocking pink colour and creamy flavour. You can make it with ice-cream like the original or cream if you prefer. If this isn’t pink enough for you, try using cherry ice-cream!



30ml    Creme de Noyaux

30ml    White Creme de Cacao

60ml    Single cream or 3 scoops of vanilla ice-cream

Garnish with 3 cherries on a cocktail stick



Place all of the ingredients (except the cherries) into a cocktail shaker and fill with ice.

Shake and strain into coupé glass.

Garnish with skewered cherries.