From its origins in 19th-century California, the cocktail--a drink made of spirits mixed with at least one other ingredient, alcoholic or nonalcoholic--has risen and fallen in popularity. The 2000s have seen a steady growth in interest in classic cocktails made with high-end liquors, rare flavours and garnishes, and served in very specific glasses with precise amounts of specially-shaped ice. These drinks were served during mid-20th century cocktail parties.
The Martini and Other Gin Drinks
Despite the drink's long history and perennial popularity, the classic martini -- gin and vermouth, with an olive garnish -- remains firmly associated with the 1950s and '60s. James Bond began drinking martinis in the 1960s, references to the businessman's "three-martini lunches" appeared, and the silver shakers and other accessories that are icons of mid-century style became popular.
Other quintessentially gin drinks of the era are the Tom Collins, the sloe gin fizz, and the Gibson, a martini variation that calls for onions instead of olives for a garnish.
Heavy-hitting whiskey drinks, usually served in a rocks glass, haven't changed as much as the martini. The Manhattan, the Old Fashioned and the whiskey sour have held fast, changing little, but their classic "retro" appeal links them firmly to cocktail hour, a mid-20th century concept.
Mai Tais, daquiris, the pina colada and other rum-based drinks served in novelty glasses fuelled a distinctly 1950s trend: the tiki party. The drinks are kitschy and delicious when made with fresh tropical fruit juice and quality rum.
Forgotten Drinks of the 1950s and '60s
While some classic cocktails of the 1950s and '60s are still enjoyed, some drinks of the era have faded. Forgotten vodka drinks include the Yip Pip, which was vodka and vermouth in a salt-rimmed glass with a cucumber garnish; Vodka Dew, which mixed vodka with honeydew melon purée and soda with a mint garnish; and the Herbal Bloody Mary, a variation on the classic that introduced marjoram, basil, and savoury to the basic vodka, tomato juice, black pepper and lemon juice.
Some lost rum-based cocktails are Fish House Punch, which called for rum, cognac, peach brandy and sugar; Hibiscus Punch, made with light rum, Pimm's Cup, grenadine, lemon juice, bitters, egg white, orange juice and pineapple juice; and the Frangipani, which combined rum with maraschino liqueur and grapefruit juice.
Gin and Pernod over shaved ice was known as a London Fog. An Applejack Rabbit included apple brandy, lemon and maple syrup; the Ramos Fizz combined gin, egg white, simple syrup, lime juice, lemon juice, double cream and orange flower water.