4 Retro Cocktail Recipes Making a Comeback

The Moscow Mule - a retro cocktail.

Cocktail culture has a way of going in and out of style–just like with fashion. While bell-bottoms came back in style, and are again out of fashion (and really should stay there), the notion of retro or vintage cocktail recipes seems to be sticking around.

Movies and TV are one way that vintage cocktails come back into fashion. James Bond gave us the martini, which is based on a concoction from the late 1800s; “Sex in the City” gave us the Cosmopolitan, a drink that actually dates back to the 1930s; “The Big Lebowski” gave us the White Russian, which can be traced back to the 1960s; and most recently “Mad Men” has re-popularized the Manhattan, which history has it as being invented at the Manhattan Club in the 1800s.

It appears that with mixology, as with fashion, everything is derivative.

So, what are some vintage cocktails worthy of ordering up or serving at your New Year’s Eve party? Here are 4 retro cocktail recipes that have made a comeback for good reason–they are tasty!

The Manhattan

A traditional Manhattan is made with Rye (Canadian Whiskey, like Crown Royal), sweet vermouth, bitters and is often served with a maraschino cherry. For those who don’t know, sweet vermouth is nothing like the vermouth found in the martini and bitters is actually an alcohol flavored concoction made with herbs–think of it like vanilla extract for booze. It is served in a martini glass and bourbon and Tennessee whiskey can be substituted for the rye as well. One should experiment with the Manhattan to find the preferred preparation. For example, I prefer mine made with rye and extra bitters.


The Old-Fashioned dates back to the 1800s and it is considered one of the classic cocktails. It is served in an low glass called an Old-fashioned glass, which was pretty much named for the drink. The Old-fashioned is made with whiskey or brandy which is added to muddled sugar (or simple syrup), bitters and served with a twist of citrus rind or a maraschino cherry. It is the drink of choice for Don Draper, and again, is one that should be experimented with to find the right combination of elements.

French 75

The French 75 is a Champagne cocktail and it is probably most remembered from the 1930s movie “Casablanca.” It is made with gin, lemon juice, simple syrup and Brut Champagne and is serve in either a Collins glass or a Champagne flute. It has a bite and might make a welcome addition to your next brunch instead of the more traditional Bellini or Mimosa.

Moscow Mule

The Moscow Mule is a tasty cocktail made from ginger beer (the more bitter, the better), vodka and lemon. It was first invented in the 1940s and became popular in the 1950s at the height of the Cold War. It is served “on the rocks”, or over ice, in a copper mug that keeps the drink ice cold. It is a refreshing and delightful variation on the Buck or Mule cocktails, which are all made by adding various liquors and citrus to ginger beer.

See the International Bartenders Association for official recipes and more retro cocktail ideas.

Top Image: Edsel L

Jen Wallace

Jen Wallace shares her indie life by writing about making, creating, cooking, learning, playing, decorating, and pretty much anything else that strikes her fancy from indie biz tips to the modern history of the American hemline.