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The Origins Of 10 Popular Prohibition Cocktails

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For some added class during happy hours, impress your friends with the history that lies behind what you choose to imbibe. The great heyday for creative cocktails was Prohibition, the 13-year span (1920-1933) where the allure of outlaw liquor inspired waves of colorful concoctions that offered glamour and, above all, good taste.

1. GIN RICKEY

This chill cocktail is made up of gin, lime juice, and seltzer. But in its earliest incarnation, the Rickey favored bourbon over gin. The shift to gin in the 1920s is believed to have occurred because bathtub gin was more readily available, as it required no aging. F. Scott Fitzgerald was a fan of the revised Rickey, and he referenced it in a pivotal scene in The Great Gatsby. Though made popular during Prohibition, this cocktail dates back to the 1880s, when bartender George A. Williamson made it special for one Colonel Joe Rickey.

2. FRENCH 75

Named for the powerful French 75mm field gun, this champagne-based cocktail was the 1915 invention of Harry MacElhone, who mixed gin, champagne, lemon juice, and two dashes of simple syrup for patrons of the New York Bar in Paris. Named for its kick, the French 75 became popular stateside when it was included in The Savoy Cocktail Book of 1930.

3. SIDECAR

Mr. MacElhone also claims credit for this classic cocktail, but only some of the time. In the earliest editions of his 1922 book Harry's ABC of Mixing Cocktails, the recipe includes cognac, triple sec, and lemon juice, and he cited Pat MacGarry, a bartender at London's Buck's Club, as the Sidecar's originator. But in later editions of the book, MacElhone changed his tune and claimed the recipe as his own. However, this revision could be blamed on a revised recipe. The English version called for two parts cognac to one part triple sec (or other orange liqueur) and lemon juice, while the French version (MacElhone's) favors equal parts of this trio of ingredients.

4. THE SOUTH SIDE FIZZ

This cocktail mixes gin, lemon juice, club soda, mint, and simple syrup, making for a light drink that has some dark history. The preferred beverage of bootlegger Al Capone and his crew, the South Side Fizz's name is linked to Chicago's South Side, which his gang ran. The North Side's rival booze runners were bringing in a smoother gin to their speakeasies, which made gin with a splash of ginger ale divine. But the South Side's gin had a much rougher bite, and so more elements were demanded to make it delectable.

5. BEE'S KNEES

Another bathtub gin-based cocktail that came to fame in Prohibition was this sweet treat. Rather than straight up sugar, this cocktail combines gin with honey, lemon juice, and orange juice. Like the South Side Fizz, these sweet ingredients were intended to smooth off the jagged edges of the illegal hooch. Honey was seen by some as a bizarre ingredient (sugar was far more mainstream), and this drink earned some sneers for its floral sweetness. However, with the wide array of honeys now available, this bevvy is buzzing up a comeback.

6. CORPSE REVIVER

Its name is horrific, but that's because this cocktail family's motto is "cheers to the hair of the dog that bit you." The Corpse Reviver, made of cognac, brandy, and sweet vermouth, and its sister Corpse Reviver #2, made of gin, lemon juice, triple sec, Lillet, and absinthe, were meant as hangover cures. (They'd revive your corpse, you see.) They were essentially seen as medicinal in their earliest days, and are believed to reach back as far as the 1860s. However, the Corpse Revivers cemented their place in the Prohibition era by being catalogued in the 1930 Savoy Cocktail Handbook.

7. THE MARY PICKFORD

Shaking up white rum, pineapple juice, and grenadine makes this fruity cocktail, which is named after the 1920s movie star who co-founded United Artists with D.W. Griffith, Charlie Chaplin, and her husband Douglas Fairbanks. Pickford is said to have favored this cocktail created for her on a trip to Cuba, where rum was far easier to come by than it was stateside. But sources conflict on which bartender served her the first Mary Pickford. It's believed to be either Eddie Woelke, who fled to Cuba during Prohibition, or Fred Kaufmann, who may have mixed it for her while she and Fairbanks were on vacation.

8. THE LAST WORD

This pale green concoction is made of equal parts gin, lime juice, green Chartreuse, and maraschino liqueur. Initially developed at the Detroit Athletic Club, this colorful cocktail caught on in New York when vaudevillian Frank Fogarty (A.K.A. The Dublin Minstrel) brought its recipe with him. Its popularity faded following World War II, but The Last Word was rediscovered by the bartenders of the Pacific Northwest in the mid 2000s.

9. WARD 8

This cocktail's name is a nod to its origin, dating back to 1898 Boston. There, politician Martin M. Lomasney celebrated his win of a seat in the General Court of Massachusetts with a newly minted cocktail named for the district that cinched his victory. With its mix of rye whiskey, lemon juice, orange juice, and grenadine, this drink rose in popularity during prohibition because all the fruit flavors helped mask that harsh whiskey's bite.

10. Hanky Panky

Made from equal parts gin and sweet vermouth with two dashes of Fernet Branca, this saucy cocktail was created from mixology master Ada Coleman, a well-regarded bartender at The Hotel Savoy in London. Upon her retirement in 1925, The Daily Express wrote this about the booze-slinging broad: "'Coley’ is known to thousands of men all over the world, Britons who are now roughing it in various parts of the Empire, Americans who think of her every time they remember their own country’s dryness." But the Hanky Panky is her biggest claim to fame, created to appease the thirst of a celebrated but exhausted actor Sir Charles Hawtrey. Coleman says the name came from Hawtrey's exclamation on taking his first sip, "By Jove! That is the real hanky-panky!"

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7 Hangover Cures Backed By Science
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Science has a lot to say about bogus hangover cures (coffee, hair of the dog, and saunas aren't doing you any favors), but not as much about which treatments are legitimate. That's not for a lack of trying: The quest to banish the headaches, nausea, and dizziness that follow a bout of heavy drinking has been going on for centuries. We still don't know how to prevent hangovers or how exactly they happen, but if you're feeling miserable after last night, there are a handful of science-based remedies that might ease your pain.

1. ASIAN PEAR JUICE

Have some extra Asian pears at home? Run them through your juicer before your next night out. According to researchers at Australia's Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, just 7.4 ounces of Asian pear juice is enough to soften the blow of a hangover. The scientists say that the juice interacts with enzymes that break down alcohol, speeding up your metabolism and leaving less surplus alcohol for your body to absorb. There's just one catch: The juice must be consumed before you drink anything else in order to be effective. Apologies to anyone currently reading this through heavy-duty sunglasses.

2. MUSIC

Anyone who's ever suffered through a massive hangover knows that sound is the enemy. But while your roommate's 9 a.m. tap dancing practice might exacerbate your symptoms, music may have the opposite effect. Research has shown that listening to music can provide relief to migraines, which are similar to hangover headaches. As long as the music is pleasant and suits your taste, it should help to drown out the chorus of pain playing in your mind. Head sensitivity isn't the only symptom music helps with: According to researchers at the University of Edinburgh, listening to your favorite music also eases pain. There hasn't been research specifically on hangovers, but at the very least it should hide your pained cries.

3. SPRITE

If you're looking for something to nurse your hangover, skip the bloody Mary. A team of Chinese researchers found that Xue bi, the Chinese version of Sprite, is actually the best beverage to combat the lingering side-effects of alcohol. Of the 57 drinks tested, Sprite was the best at helping enzymes break down acetaldehyde, the metabolized version of ethanol that's blamed for some of the nastiest hangover symptoms. The scientists also identified which concoctions you should avoid: A drink containing herbs and hemp seeds was the worst offender, as it actually prolongs acetaldehyde metabolism instead of speeding it up. (We should also caution that this test was done in a lab and might not be applicable to actual drinking scenarios.)

4. PEDIALYTE

Although not the primary cause of your hangover, one of the many ways alcohol can leave you feeling worse for wear the morning after is dehydration. Alcohol is a diuretic—it makes you pee a lot more than you would otherwise. If your fluids are depleted when you go to bed, you can expect to wake up feeling groggy, achy, and all-around not your best. Water is the simplest fix for dehydration, but for more extreme cases, there's Pedialyte. The drink was originally developed to rehydrate kids sick from vomiting and diarrhea, but it's marketed as a hangover treatment for adults as well. It contains nutrients, sodium, and other electrolytes—all things that can nurture your body when it's dehydrated. It won't cure the hangover, but it might help alleviate the worst of it.

5. ANTI-INFLAMMATORY DRUGS

If your first move when you're hungover is to reach for a bottle of aspirin, you have the right idea. Anti-inflammatory drugs may not do much to stop the underlying causes of your condition, but they can suppress your symptoms long enough for you to get out of bed without feeling like your head's been replaced with an anvil. On top of easing headaches and muscle pain, there's another reason these pills are good for hangovers: They may directly combat alcohol's inflammatory effects. But there's one over-the-counter painkiller you should never take while or after consuming alcohol, and that's Tylenol. Any drug that uses acetaminophen will only further abuse your recovering liver.

6. EGGS

The best way to tackle a hangover with food is to eat while you drink. Chowing down after the damage has already been done may distract you from your turmoil for a short while, but it won't soothe your physical symptoms. There are a few exceptions: Eggs, for example, have hangover-fighting potential thanks to a special ingredient. The food is packed with cysteine, an amino acid that breaks down the drinking byproduct acetaldehyde. So whether you prefer to enjoy brunch out or at home, make sure your meal includes eggs in some form.

7. HONEY ON TOAST

While you're at it, put some honey on toast next to your omelet. According to Britain's Royal Society of Chemistry, while it won't cure a hangover, the breakfast can help alleviate the symptoms: "The best breakfast is toast and honey (or golden syrup) which provides the body with the sodium, potassium, and fructose which it now needs." The BBC talked to a junior doctor about this hangover remedy and he recommended adding banana. While he cautions it's an acquired taste, the doctor explained, "Bananas are a high source of potassium—an electrolyte that gets depleted when you go out on the binge. The honey will give you that spike of sugar in your bloodstream and that energy rush to help you get back on your feet."

BONUS: DRINK LESS

While this is definitely the least helpful of all suggestions, in 2005 an article in the BMJ looked at 15 studies of hangover cures, noting that "the paucity of randomised controlled trials is in stark contrast to the plethora of ‘hangover cures' marketed on the internet." Their conclusion? "No compelling evidence exists to suggest that any conventional or complementary intervention is effective for preventing or treating alcohol hangover. The most effective way to avoid the symptoms of alcohol induced hangover is to practise abstinence or moderation."

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11 Secrets of Bartenders
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Spend enough time at your local watering hole and it becomes apparent that the person slinging drinks behind the bar is so much more than just a human recipe book. They’re flavor experts possessing saint-like levels of patience, who can strike up a conversation with just about anyone. With that in mind, Mental Floss spoke to three bartenders about the one thing you should never order, how to stock your own bar, and the best way to approach the attractive stranger you just locked eyes with.

1. THEY'RE SMART ABOUT WHAT THEY SPEND MONEY ON.

Berkeley, California-based bartender Nat Harry suggests considering a drink's recipe before you shell out for top-shelf liquor. “Any time you have a spirit that’s going to be the star of the show, like in a Manhattan or a Martini, you’ll probably want something a bit nicer,” she explains. “But if you’re drinking a cocktail with aggressive or spicy mixers, like a Moscow Mule for example, that is not the time to order Ketel One or Belvedere."

According to a bartender at NYC’s Gordon Bar, whiskeys and tequilas are generally worth spending a bit more on. "The quality with both spirits does ramp up quickly," he says. "And the difference between top shelf and well is very noticeable."

2. THEY DO THEIR BEST TO KEEP AN OPEN MIND.

A smartly-dressed drunkard chats to a young lady at a bar in a theatre scene from 1933
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The customer is (almost) always right—but when they aren’t, you won’t hear it from whoever’s serving them drinks. “I don’t really judge people based on their orders, aside from an ‘Ooh, you just turned 21,’” Courtney Cowie, a Long Island-based bartender, says. “I’m a strong believer in liking and drinking whatever you want.” Harry adds that she does her best to put her own preferences aside when she steps behind the bar: “With experience, you realize the important thing about being a bartender is giving your guest a good experience. If someone orders something I might not find palatable, I’ll try to make the best version of that drink possible.”

3. BUT THEY WILL ROLL THEIR EYES OVER CERTAIN ORDERS.

Of course, there’s one (boozy) exception to the aforementioned rule: anyone who sidles up to the bar and orders a Long Island Iced Tea. “Even if you used all premium spirits, mixing all those flavors together will never be anything more than a hot mess,” Harry says. “Is there a decent amount of booze in there? Sure. But most cocktails, either by virtue of proof or volume of spirits can achieve that for you, and spare you the hangover you’re gonna have from all that sugar.” The Gordon Bar bartender agrees: “You know immediately their number one goal is to just get wasted.”

4. THEY DON’T MIND CREATING SOMETHING SPECIAL FOR YOU.

A barman at the St Mellons Club near Cardiff mixing cocktails for the Carlyle cousins, 1936
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 All three bartenders agreed that creating personalized drinks for customers is one of the best parts of the job—“It makes me feel respected!” says Cowie—with just one caveat. “I love it, but if I’m totally slammed behind the bar, that’s not a good time for a personalized drink,” Harry says.

If you're set on trying something different, get ready to field a few questions: “I always ask right away what they normally drink and what flavors they like, and then if they want to be adventurous,” the server at Gordon Bar says. “I like to get people out of their comfort zones.”

5. IT’S OK TO ASK YOUR BARTENDER TO TRY AGAIN … USUALLY.

Just not feeling the drink in front of you? It’s OK to ask for another. Says Harry, “I think customers are always entitled to a mulligan. I hate to watch someone pull a series of tortured faces if they aren’t enjoying something.” But that rule generally applies only if the bartender’s the one who led you astray. “The exception is when someone tries to order something ‘experimental’ and I try to talk them out of it, and then said experiment results in a yucky beverage,” Harry explains. “If you want to come up with crazy drink combinations, that’s what your home bar is for.”

6. ANYONE CAN INVENT HIS OR HER OWN SIGNATURE BEVERAGE.

Jessica Mitford with her husband Esmond Romilly behind the bar of the Roma Restaurant in Biscayne Bay, 1940
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 If you’re a beginner, Harry suggests following this simple formula: “It’s a safe bet to start with a base spirit, 80 proof or higher, a liquer, citrus, and then a sweetener if needed, or even bitters. After you get comfortable following the rules, you can start breaking them.” The most important rule of all, according to the source at Gordon Bar? “Always taste as you go!”

7. "MIXOLOGIST" IS MORE THAN JUST A PRETENTIOUS SYNONYM FOR "BARTENDER."

As the Gordon Bar employee notes, “A mixologist is more like a chef in that they spend a lot of time researching ingredients and comparing flavor profiles.” Unlike with sommeliers, there’s no single organization governing the profession. While there is currently a movement in favor of formalizing the training and certification process, most mixologists just learn on the job. As Harry puts it, “Every good mixologist should start by trying to be a good bartender first."

8. LOOKING TO PLEASE A CROWD? HERE’S WHAT YOU SHOULD KEEP AT HOME.

If you're setting up a home bar for the first time, there's no need to run out and buy one of everything. “Always have vodka, and then one whiskey, either a bourbon or a rye,” says the anonymous NYC-based bartender. “Those are essentials. And then a couple of bitters—like Angostura or Regan’s Orange—and high-quality club soda and fresh juice.” Harry suggests making your own simple syrup, too—”It’s cheap and easy, and lasts a long time in your fridge”—but as far as equipment goes, you can skip the elaborate gadgets and gizmos. The only “specialty bar tool” you really need, according to Cowie, is a shaker.

9. THEY COME READY TO CHAT.

Men gathered around a bartender, 1950
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 Even the most introverted bartenders know the small talk they dish out is almost as important as the beverage they’re stirring (or shaking). “We know a little bit about everything: sports, music, and pop culture usually have you covered,” Cowie says. “But if all of the above fails, we just ask questions.”

10. YOU CAN LET THEM PLAY CUPID.

Bartenders rarely mind helping their patrons make connections. “For folks who don’t want to stroll up and start chatting with a perfect stranger, ask the bartender if they can buy the person they like a drink,” Harry suggests. “I phrase it like that because I like to check in with the object of their affection before I start making it. Maybe they don’t want company, or maybe they’ve already had too many. But most of the time, it’s a yes, and they move down the bar to thank their benefactor.”

11. YES, THEY’RE PROS AT PREVENTING HANGOVERS.

A woman suffering from a hangover circa 1956
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 Experienced bartenders try not to get to a point where a hangover will be an issue, because they know there's no magic cure-all. “The best remedy is preventative care—one glass of water per every two drinks,” Cowie tells Mental Floss. “But if the deed is done, try energy drinks, lots and lots of water, and a huge breakfast.” Harry agrees that getting something in your stomach is key: “Bacon, egg, and cheese sandwich and a Coke. Bonus points for hash browns.”

This story originally ran in 2015.

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