The Prohibition-Era Cocktail. What is it you might ask? It’s a cocktail-turned-drinking style that became famous in the 1920’s during prohibition. This jazzy time was huge for whiskey, flappers, bathtub gin, and undercover drinking done right. This is a cocktail style that is sweeping the nation and has been every since the recession hit, and it’s taking drinking a simple cocktail to a whole new level. From bars that include passwords just to get in (Bourbon & Branch, Milk & Honey), to the snazzy and dapper outfits one finds themselves wearing when going “out for drinks” this is far more than a beer at a bar. It’s a cocktail experience.
My first cloak and dagger exposure to this style of drinking came when I was visiting friends in New York City and we went to the most coveted reservation-only drinking experience in Manhattan: Milk & Honey.
After walking through a dodgy part of Chinatown we came to an unmarked door and knocked. We then waited and passed through thick velvet curtains, after our passwords were said we walked further into a scene out of the Wild West. Bartenders quietly cleaning glasses, wooden booths covered in thick leather cushions, lighting so dark I could barely see a step in front of me, and small candles on the tables. These people were setting a scene, and boy did they achieve.
The whole idea was approaching drinks from a quality not quantity standard. Only the finest spirits and fresh ingredients, Appletinis need not apply. So one after another we consumed wonderful, handcrafted libations that were make from our ideas of what we wanted only, no recipes needed. A good example of a prohibition-era cocktail is a Manhattan: whiskey, sweet vermouth, and bitters; a Rusty Nail: Scotch, Drambuie. Lemon peel; a Vieux Carré: Cognac, rye, vermouth, Benedictine, Peychaud’s Bitters, Angostura Bitters: or a now famous Sacramento-born drink called a White Linen: Broker’s Dry Gin, St. Germain Elderflower Liquor, Simple Syrup, Lemon Juice, English cucumber.
So back here in Sacramento I was on a mission to find these wonderful cocktails of my own, look no further than midtown Sacramento’s The Shady Lady. This is where Sacramento’s cocktail scene changed, from the level of skill the bartender needed to have to the one-on-one unique experience that a person could get when speaking to a bartender, as well as the huge quality increase in alcohol availability.
My first experience at Shady Lady began with Chris Tucker. A now-famous bartender who re-created that same drink I had at Milk & Honey and made it even better. There is a wealth of great bartending talent in this town, but not quite as many establishments that appreciate the grandeur of this cocktail era and it’s libations. To find one of these beautifully handcrafted, personal-experience cocktails yourself check out:
The Shady Lady
1409 R St # 101
Sacramento, CA 95811
Hours: Weekdays 11am-2am; Weekends 9am-2am
The L Wine Lounge
801 L Street
Sacramento, CA 95811-4170
Hours Sat 10am-12am
2718 J Street
Sacramento, CA 95816-4314
The Golden Bear
2326 K Street
Sacramento, CA 95816
1801 Capitol Avenue
Sacramento, CA 95811
Open Mon-Wed 11am-10pm;
Thu 11am-11pm; Fri-Sat 11am-12am