The Insider’s Guide to Old-School Cocktails

cocktails, drinks, alcohol, booze, liquor

Classic drinks have been making a comeback, thanks in part to Don Draper and a new wave of upscale cocktail bars. Just ask author and cocktail historian Jeff “Beachbum” Berry, who  hosted a “master class” on the Zombie at Empire on the Waterfront this spring.



That had me thinking: one, can I become a “cocktail historian” too? Man that sounds like a sweet gig. And two, what other old-school drinks are making a comeback in Boston, and where can you get them?

Moscow Mule

Ingredients: Vodka, ginger beer, and lime juice in a copper mug.

This simple, refreshing drink became popular in the US during the 50’s, when vodka drinks were becoming increasingly popular. A Moscow Mule recipe kit was included in Oprah WInfrey’s 2012 list of Favorite Things.

Where to drink it: Stoddard’s

Whiskey Smash

Ingredients: Bourbon, simple syrup, mint leaves, and lemon or other fruits.

A great entry-level cocktail for people who think they can’t enjoy whiskey, this citrusy alternative to the Mint Julep goes back to 1862, when Jerry Thomas included it in his book How to Mix Drinks, as a julep. However, the Whiskey Smash is more of a simplified Mint Julep. The smash is a very flexible drink, allowing you to use different types of fruits and spices, and there are a variety of smashes that are great for the summer.

Where to drink it: Eastern Standard


Ingredients: Absinthe, sugar cube, rye or cognac, and bitters.

One of the oldest American cocktails, the Sazerac’s origins have been traced back to pre-Civil War New Orleans. Originally made with cognac, the recipe was changed to allow rye whiskey in the 19th century when cognac was rare. In 2008 the Louisiana legislature made the Sazerac the official drink of New Orleans, and it’s featured in this scene on HBO’s Treme.

Where to drink it: No. 9 Park


Ingredients: Cognac, orange liqueur, and lemon juice.

The sidecar originated around World War I, in either Paris or London. The original recipe was much sweeter, but the ingredients have been refined over the years. It’s a swanky drink for a classy night on the town.

Where to drink it: Silvertone

Old Fashioned

Ingredients: Bourbon or rye, bitters, sugar cube, orange slice, and cocktail cherry.

Hell, this drink is so old it even has a type of glass named after it. Dating back to 1806, “cock-tails” as they were called, were originally drank in the morning. These boozy pick-me-ups had the same ingredients, and eventually became the cocktail we know as the Old Fashioned. The fruit and the sugar mellow the whisey flavors a bit, so it’s another drink that’s a good starting point to get you into whiskey. Bartenders still debate between using bourbon or rye, so try both and see which you prefer.

Where to drink it: Drink

What are your favorite old-school drinks? Let me know what I missed in the comments.


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