Crafting Solutions: The 1920s taught us some valuable lessons on cocktails

The '20s Issue

When the 1920 ban on alcohol took hold with passage of the National Prohibition Act (aka the Volstead Act), we know drinkers didn't go dry until the ban was lifted in 1933. They got creative.

Besides hatching new ways to transport (hello, rum runners) and make liquor (greetings, bathtub gin), they came up with delicious ideas to stretch their booze as far as possible, using sodas, fruits and sugar to invent new cocktails or update pre-Prohibition ones.

The most popular drinks of the Jazz Age are now among the highlights of the modern craft cocktail movement. When you order a French 75 (gin, lemon juice, simple syrup and champagne), a Last Word (gin, lime juice, green chartreuse and maraschino) or Gin Rickey (gin, lime juice and club soda), you're drinking like they were 100 years ago.

I popped into the Volstead Act, a downtown Spokane cocktail station, and ordered up a Bee's Knees (gin, honey, lemon juice), one of several selections on the menu you might have found a century ago. Gin has enjoyed a boom the last few years. Kaycee Keller's been bartending at Volstead Act for five years, and she says people have been getting more educated on all eras of cocktails. The gin drinks have gained popularity, as has the Gold Rush (a Bee's Knees but with whiskey taking the gin's place).

"If people come in and say they don't like gin, I ask them to let me make them a cocktail," Keller says. "Because if you make it with fresh juices, it's so different from that pine taste people think of."

A booze lesson first learned 100 years ago is still making our lives better today.

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About The Author

Dan Nailen

Dan Nailen is the managing editor of the Inlander, where he oversees coverage of arts and culture. He's previously written and edited for The Salt Lake Tribune, Salt Lake City Weekly, Missoula Independent, Salt Lake Magazine, The Oregonian and KUER-FM. He grew up seeing the country in an Air Force family and studied...