Nine Prohibition-Era Cocktails in Honor of The Great Gatsby (And Because We Like to Drink)

"There was music from my neighbor's house through the summer nights. In his blue gardens men and girls came and went like moths among the whisperings and the champagne and the stars...In the main hall a bar with a real brass rail was set up, and stocked with gins and liquors and with cordials so long forgotten that most of his female guests were too young to know one from another."

F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby, 1925

If Chapter 3 of F. Scott Fitzgerald's classic American novel The Great Gatsby doesn't make you long for a bottle of Champagne or a gin martini, you deserve Prohibition. It throws you headlong into one of Gatsby's famous parties, complete with a seemingly endless supply of bootlegged booze. The narrator, Nick Carraway, describes "floating rounds of cocktails," and a band playing "yellow cocktail music." At one point during the party, a woman "seizes a cocktail out of the air, dumps it down for courage and, moving her hands like Frisco, dances out alone on the canvas platform."

Like the party, Prohibition was in full swing, but the wealthy and careless people of Fitzgerald's novel (and the rest of the country) cared not a whit.

Yummy cocktails after the jump!

Fortunately for those of us who enjoy a good cocktail today, Prohibition did little to deter thirsty drinkers able to get their hands on bootlegged whiskey or bathtub gin. The pervasiveness of drinking in spite of the fact that high-quality liquor was unavailable led people to get creative with their mixed drinks.

Sure, a gin martini is a thing of beauty, but not when it's made from cheap grain alcohol mixed with juniper berry juice. To mask the unpleasant flavor of homemade spirits, people began making cocktails with other ingredients that would (hopefully) overpower the "bathtub gin." Of course, drinks like the whiskey-based Old Fashioned or the cognac Sidecar were still popular, thanks to bootleggers who brought the drinks from Europe to the U.S.

In honor of the recent release of Baz Luhrmann's bastardized version of Fitzgerald's novel, we thought we'd revisit some of the popular cocktails of the Prohibition era at some of our favorite local watering holes. Thankfully, these days, we can legally drink properly made liquor, so these cocktails have evolved from vessels to make bad booze go down easier into delicious drinks in their own right.

We imagine Gatsby would approve.

12-Mile Limit Sanctuaria (4198 Manchester Avenue; 314-535-9700)

click to enlarge Nine Prohibition-Era Cocktails in Honor of The Great Gatsby (And Because We Like to Drink)
Kaitlin Steinberg

Once the eighteenth amendment was passed and people could no longer drink in the U.S., they decided the logical solution would be to venture off the coasts into international waters. Originally, three miles was the boundary between the U.S. and no-man's land, but in an effort to keep people from partying within sight of beaches and boardwalks, the government extended its jurisdiction out to twelve miles. Of course, that didn't stop the wealthier "scofflaws" from moving their operations off the coast a few more miles where they could keep the party going.

There are several different ways to make a 12-Mile Limit, but Sanctuaria keeps it simple and strong. Bartender Nate Kromat's recipe uses white rum, Calvados (a type of apple brandy) and Swedish Punsch (a malty, slightly sweet spirit). This mixture of ingredients might sound strange, but trust us. It'll have you dancing the Charleston in no time.

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