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When was the last time you enjoyed a Tom Collins with a cigar? There’s something to say for the charm of yesteryear, and the right vintage cocktails can upgrade your next dinner party or backyard soiree.
What should you have on hand in your mixology kitchen? Whether you’re a dedicated home bartender or a casual entertainer, these 13 vintage cocktails will delight your guests with Gatsby-esque charm.
What Makes a Cocktail “Vintage?”
Here’s the nifty thing: there’s no one definition. It all depends on who you ask. Bob Vila says an antique is at least 100 years old, whereas vintage items are simply “old.” Other home improvement sites specify 40 to 50 years as a vintage classification.
The automobile world adds yet another twist. “Antique” means over 50 years old, classics are over 20 and vintage vehicles are the oldest, representing vehicles built between 1919 and 1930. There’s no specific standard for cocktails, so we’ll loosely define them here as something Gatsby himself may have sipped while pining over Daisy.
Liquors to Keep on Hand for Mixing Vintage Cocktails
You’ll need the right ingredients on hand to mix up vintage cocktails. While every bar is slightly different, you should ensure you have the following staples:
- Light rum
- Dark rum
- Irish Cream
- Cream de cacao
- Kahlua or coffee liqueur
- Triple sec
- Grand Mariner
Should you go well-level or top-shelf? Much depends on your budget, of course. However, you might also consider the purpose. While you deserve the finest liquors for individual sipping, the other ingredients in some vintage cocktails help smooth out the flavors.
Suggested Bar Supply List for Vintage Cocktails
You’ll need more than alcohol. A well-stocked bar contains the following essential juices, mixers and tools.
A few cocktails call for juices. The following varieties should cover the bases:
You also need the right mixers, especially for vintage cocktails. Ensure you have the following:
- Aromatic bitters
- Simple syrup
- Sour mix
- Milk and cream
- Club soda
- Tonic water
- Ginger beer
- Lemon-lime soda
- Worcestershire sauce
Additionally, you’ll want garnish, including citrus slices, peppers, olives, celery, mint leaves, whipped cream, grated nutmeg and cherries.
Finally, you’ll need the right glasses and mixing tools to create vintage cocktails, including:
- Various glasses: including rocks, Collins, martini, old-fashioned, white wine, red wine, shot glasses and mugs.
- Bottle openers
- Bar spoon
- Mesh strainer
- Ice buckets and tongs
- Cutting board
13 Vintage Cocktail Recipes
You have a well-stocked bar you can’t wait to show off to family and friends. What’s the perfect way to do so? Invite them for a dinner or cocktail party featuring these vintage cocktails.
- 1 ½ ounces sloe gin
- 1 ounce lemon juice
- ¾ ounce simple syrup
- Garnish with lemon and cherry
Add all ingredients except garnish to a cocktail shaker and mix with ice until well chilled. Fill a Collins or highball glass with ice, strain the mix into it with a mesh strainer and enjoy.
- 2 ounces gin
- 4 to 6 ounces tonic water
- Lemon or lime wedge for garnish
Fill a highball glass with ice. Pour in the gin, followed by the tonic, stirring slightly. Garnish and serve.
- 2 ounces whiskey
- 1 ounce sweet vermouth
- 1 to 2 dashes bitters
- Orange peel and cherry for garnish
Fill a shaker with ice, adding whiskey, vermouth and bitters and shaking until chilled. Strain the drink into a Collins glass filled with ice, garnish and enjoy.
4. Tom Collins
- 2 ½ cups ice
- 2 ounces whiskey or gin
- ¾ ounce lemon juice
- ½ ounce simple syrup
- 2 fluid ounces club soda
- Lemon for garnish
Fill Collins glass with 1 ½ cups of ice and set aside. Pour remaining ice and ingredients except lemon wedge into a shaker, shaking until chilled and straining over the glass of ice. Garnish with a lemon and serve.
Fun fact: What’s the difference between a highball glass and a Collins? It’s the size of the vessel, which is slightly larger in a Collins.
- 3 ounces cognac
- 1 ½ ounces lemon juice
- 1 ½ ounces Cointreau or triple sec
- Lemon and sugar to “salt” the rim
Rub the rims of a martini glass with the lemon and dip in sugar, set aside. Mix the cognac, lemon and orange liqueur in a shaker with ice, strain into the glass and enjoy.
- 2 ½ ounces gin
- ½ ounce lime juice
- ½ ounce simple syrup
- Lime to garnish
Add gin, lime juice and syrup to a shaker with ice and shake until chilled. Line a cocktail or rocks glass with fresh ice and strain the mixture overtop, garnishing with a lime.
7. Bloody Mary
- ¾ cup tomato juice or spicy vegetable juice cocktail
- 1 ½ ounces vodka
- 2 dashes Worcestershire sauce
- 1 dash Tabasco or your favorite hot pepper sauce
- Celery, lime and olives for garnish
Prepare a Collins glass by dipping the top in water, then salt. Fill with ice and set aside. Add tomato juice, vodka, tabasco, Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper to a shaker with ice and shake until chilled. Pour into the prepared glass, garnish with celery, lime and olives and serve.
Fun twist: Make this cocktail south-of-the-border spicy by adding some crushed jalapeno and garnishing with a pepper.
8. Dry Martini
- 2 ½ ounces dry gin
- ½ ounce dry vermouth
- Olive or lemon for garnish
Mix gin and vermouth in a shaker with ice until chilled. Strain into a martini glass, garnish and enjoy.
9. Moscow Mule
- 2 ounces vodka
- 4 ounces ginger beer
- ½ lime, juiced
- Lime wedge for garnish
Fill a Collins glass with ice. Add the vodka, top with the ginger beer and lime juice, stirring slightly. Garnish and serve.
10. Brandy Alexander
- 1 ½ ounces cognac
- 1 ounce dark cream de cacao
- 1 ounce cream
- Grated nutmeg for garnish
Add the first three ingredients to a shaker with ice, shaking until chilled. Strain into a martini glass, garnishing with grated nutmeg.
11. Pina Colada
- 3 ounces light rum
- 6 ounces pineapple juice
- 3 ounces coconut cream (or coconut milk, in a pinch)
Add all ingredients to a blender with crushed ice. Blend until smooth, pour into a Collins glass and enjoy. If you can take the first sip without busting out some Rupert Holmes, you are a master of self-control.
12. Mint Julep
- Fresh mint leaves
- Maple syrup
- Crushed ice
Muddle the mint in one of your sturdiest glasses. Add a drop or two of maple syrup, bourbon and cover with crushed ice, blending slightly to begin the melting process. Garnish with a mint leaf and enjoy on your veranda.
- 1 ½ cups tequila
- 1 cup Contreau or Triple Sec
- ¾ cup lime juice
- Salt for garnish
Salt the rim of a rocks or margarita glass by wetting it and dipping it in the stuff. Fill the glass with ice and set aside. Add the remaining ingredients to a shaker, shaking until chilled and straining over ice to serve.
Vintage Cocktail Recipes for Sophisticated Evenings
Do you want an elegant evening to showcase your new home bar? These vintage cocktail recipes are ideal for party fare or to kick off a formal dinner.
Master these vintage cocktail recipes to hone your DIY bartending skills. You’ll feel like Tom Cruise in no time, mixing cocktails with a style and flair that makes your home the hip neighborhood gathering spot.