I have always enjoyed books and movies of about the 1920s. The similarities with the 1920s and the 2020s have only increased my curiosity. The resurgence in the popularity of gin cocktails led me to pick up “Jazz Age Cocktails” by Cecelia Tichi. Having learnt to make the “Bee’s Knees”, a delicious combination of honey and gin which both tastes good and helps ease sore throats, I wanted to learn to make more cocktails!

I anticipated great recipes, and there are, but I didn’t expect such an interesting historical element. Each chapter explains a part of the 1920s American history during prohibition including how liquor was smuggled and made as well as it’s impact on literature, gangs, jazz and more. In 1925, journalist J. A. Rogers announced in Survey magazine that the term “jazz” overtopped the music itself to become “a spirit that can express itself in almost anything… a joyous revolt from convention, custom, authority, boredom, even sorrow – from everything that would confine the soul… and hinder its riding free on the air.” And this is the centre of the creation of, and enjoyment of, cocktails in the 1920s.

I’m looking forward to giving the “Gin Rickey” and the “Cat’s Pajamas” a try soon! If you love this era, cocktails or both, don’t miss out on this wonderful book! It’s a five out of five on the enJOYment scale.

I received a complimentary copy of the book from NYU Press through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

From the back cover:

How the Prohibition law of 1920 made alcohol, savored in secret, all the more delectable when the cocktail shaker was forced to go “underground”

“Roaring Twenties” America boasted famous firsts: women’s right to vote, jazz music, talking motion pictures, flapper fashions, and wondrous new devices like the safety razor and the electric vacuum cleaner. The privations of the Great War were over, and Wall Street boomed. 

The decade opened, nonetheless, with a shock when Prohibition became the law of the land on Friday, January 16, 1920, when the Eighteenth Amendment banned “intoxicating liquors.” Decades-long campaigns to demonize alcoholic beverages finally became law, and America officially went “dry.”

American ingenuity promptly rose to its newest challenge. The law, riddled with loopholes, let the 1920s write a new chapter in the nation’s saga of spirits. Men and women spoke knowingly of the speakeasy, the bootlegger, rum-running, black ships, blind pigs, gin mills, and gallon stills. Passwords (“Oscar sent me”) gave entrée to night spots and supper clubs where cocktails abounded, and bartenders became alchemists of timely new drinks like the Making Whoopee, the Petting Party, the Dance the Charleston. A new social event—the cocktail party staged in a private home—smashed the gender barrier that had long forbidden “ladies” from entering into the gentlemen-only barrooms and cafés. 

From the author of Gilded Age Cocktails, this book takes a delightful new romp through the cocktail creations of the early twentieth century, transporting readers into the glitz and (illicit) glamour of the 1920s. Spirited and richly illustrated, Jazz Age Cocktails dazzles with tales of temptation and temperance, and features charming cocktail recipes from the time to be recreated and enjoyed.

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