The History of Booze

Who do you think you are kidding

Back in Time 

for Drinks 1940s

The forties were dominated by WWII; even after the war ended in 1945, the effects of the war rippled on through the years. All aspects of culture were affected by the war and times were hard for everyone. The death, destruction and horror of the war cannot be understated; the events of the holocaust must never be forgotten. Many advances were made, however, due to the war, things such as the emergence of the Standoff-Berry computer, which is now generally recognised as one of the very first electronic devices. The forties also saw the development of radar, jet aircraft, the microwave oven, commercial television and, of course, the Slinky and Frisbee!


Chalakoski, M. (2017) ‘During WWII, the British Government bought the world’s entire supply of tea’,, - accessed 12-04-2019

Lazzaro, S. (2014) ‘Through the Decades: A Brief History of Iconic Cocktails’, The Observer, - accessed 09-04-2019

Moore, W. (2001) ‘Oh What a Lovely Diet!’, The Guardian, - accessed 09-04-2019

Sharo, D. (2018) ‘16 Old Hollywood Stars Who Were Drunk All The Time ‘,, accessed 11-04-2019

Stilwell, B (2018) ‘The Suffering Bastard’ is the cocktail that beat the Nazis in Egypt’,, - accessed 10-04-2019

Wootton Bridge Historical ( 2019) ‘Wartime Recipes ~ Drinks’, Recipes Past and Present, - accessed 07-04-2019.

Bottles & Cans

Fashion, by necessity, became more utilitarian as fabrics were rationed. Somehow function was more important than style BUT creative spirit and ingenuity is astonishing. Even in such difficult times, fashion did evolve and women would design and sew with whatever they could get their hands on. There are many stories of brides wearing dresses made from parachute silks from downed enemy airmen. Stockings were so hard to obtain that women would stain their legs with tea and draw on a seam with eye liner or charcoal. Many fabrics were limited to floral prints in the early forties, moving to more geometric designs in the mid to late years of the decade. Of course, the colours were khaki, or patriotic navy or dark green.

Whilst living through the years of rationing was arguably not a whole lot of fun for the population, dieticians have reflected that the diet of the 1940s was the healthiest that has ever been eaten by the population. Thanks to rationing, the post war period saw massive improvements in the nation’s health. People in the 40s not only ate less overall, there was much less fat in their diet, they drank less and they were far more active than the current population. Junk food was not available and most people walked as petrol was rationed.

One thing that the British government felt was absolutely critical to keeping up morale for the soldiers was ensuring that tea was going to be available for the troops. In 1942, they decided to buy all of the black tea available on the European market. Tea would keep up the spirits, remind the soldiers of home and the tea would keep them hydrated and energised thanks to the caffeine.


Wartime Recipes  


This recipe was taken from the Ministry of Food leaflets issued in the United Kingdom during the Second World War.


Ginger Beer

1 gallon of boiled water

1 lb sugar

½ oz yeast

1 level teaspoon ground ginger

1 level teaspoon cream of tartar


Put the yeast in a basin with a teacup full of sweetened water, almost cold. Let stand till yeast rises. Put boiled water, sugar, ginger and cream of tartar into a large jug and stir in the yeast when the water is luke warm. Stand till cool, then skim well and bottle carefully; it will be ready for use in two days.


Wartime Cocktails 


Rationing meant most spirits were hard to come by, but rum was the exception. The Good Neighbour Policy encouraged trade with Latin America, Cuba and the Caribbean and thus the rum flowed and the Daiquiri flourished. Here it is in its simple form, which later evolved into all sorts 

of frozen delights.


1 1/2 oz light rum

3/4 oz lime juice

1/4 oz simple syrup


The Suffering Bastard

This cocktail is literally said to have turned the tides of war against Erwin Rommel’s Afrika Corps in Egypt. A big claim, but it is said to have cured the hangover of the British thus allowing them to push Rommel back to Tunisia. 

As the Battle of El-Alamein was raging, Rommel is supposed to have boasted: “I’ll be drinking champagne in the master suite at Shepheard’s soon.” He was referring to the world famous Shepheard’s Hotel in Cairo. The hotel was home to the Long Bar and it was tended by Joe Scialom. Joe was a very interesting man, with many skills. He was a trained chemist, but turned that skill into making drinks. He turned out to be very good at this too and spent his life travelling the world to the work in the best hotels, rubbing shoulders with the politicians, playboys and film stars of the day. In 1941 he found himself working at the Long Bar and was finding it difficult to get his hands on any decent spirits. British soldiers ended up drinking very poor quality alcohol due to the shortages and ended up with stinking hangovers. Joe set himself the task of creating a drink that would bring all the right effects of drinking without the thumping hangover. The result of his chemical expertise was the Suffering Bastard; an odd combination of bourbon and gin plus lime, ginger ale, and finally bitters.


Here’s the original recipe, but it has been known to have included additional ingredients, such as rum or pineapple syrup.


Equal parts Bourbon, Gin, and Lime Juice

A dash of Angostura bitters

Top off with ginger beer


Joe’s cocktail was a big hit, so much so that he was asked to send 8 gallons of the drink to British frontlines at El-Alamein.


1940s Big Time Boozers

As always, there were those who could find ways around the rationing rules; usually the wealthy and famous. There were some particular big time boozers of the era; famous for their relationship with alcohol.

Errol Flynn played the charismatic swashbuckler on screen, but off screen he was one of the greatest drunken womanisers of all time; an original Hollywood hell-raiser. On the Warner film set, Mr Warner actually had the bar in the lot closed down supposedly because Flynn was continually drunk on set. He was know for bringing his doctor’s bag with him on set, containing his ‘medicine’, otherwise known as two fifths vodka. He would drink Blood Marys in the morning to hide the scent of alcohol on his breath. He also apparently injected oranges with vodka, thus appearing to be snacking on healthy fruit all day on set. When Flynn finally went to meet his maker, he went with six bottles of whiskey in his coffin.

Humphrey Bogart was a man who loved his booze. Before he hit the silver screen he was known to be a prolivic bar room brawler. There have been many accounts as to how he came by his famous facial scar, ranging from innocently receiving it in childhood, being punched by a prisoner that he was transporting whilst in the Navy or even more dramatically, being bit by shrapnel aboard the USS Leviathan. The wild stories were all part of his Hollywood mystic, but according to his Navy drinking buddies the scar was the result of a good old fashioned punch up whilst carousing in one of the many Prohibition Era speakeasies of New York. Having switched up from the Navy to Hollywood, the boozing didn’t stop and he was given his marching orders from more than one movie set. Given that his boozing got him into a great deal of bother, he claimed to have only gone on the wagon once and reportedly said of the attempt: “That was the worst afternoon of my life.”

And there you have a whistle-stop tour of the 1940s. Do have a go at the recipes and if you know of any other 1940s cocktails you think we should feature, email