A Lesson in Prohibition-Era Cocktails

Matthew Rowley, a former museum curator and the author of Lost Recipes of Prohibition: Notes from a Bootlegger's Manual, joins the Clever Cookstr to talk about what we can learn from Prohibition-era cocktail recipes and why we continue to romanticize the time of bathtub gin and speakeasies. 

Kara Rota
1-minute read
Episode #81

Matthew Rowley became interested in the history of distilling and moonshine at a young age. When he discovered a handwritten notebook from the 1920s full of recipes written in different languages for making or faking alcohol, a door was opened that led to Matthew's new book, Lost Recipes of Prohibition. Here are some highlights from our interview.

1) Think the idea of cinnamon whiskey is a newfangled trend? It actually dates back to the 18th century, along with ginger brandy, both of which are ideal for the holidays. 

2) The technique of making a caraway-flavored cordial using a hot, super-saturated sugar solution is an old method Matthew wants to bring back. The sugar crystalizes inside the bottle, making beautiful rock candy-like crystals.

3) A trend Matthew finds annoying? Bloody Marys with too many garnishes. It's a drink, not a meal! But Matthew also believes everyone should drink what they like. 

4) When entertaining, keep it simple. You don't need to put out every bottle of alcohol you have at home. Come up with a simple signature cocktail or two or four—a Tom Collins, a Whiskey Sour—so that your guests don't feel overwhelmed.

5) Punches are easy, can be made ahead, and encourage your guests to come back to the punch bowl to refill and chat, especially if you give them smaller glasses. 

Tune in using the player in the right hand corner of this page, or listen on iTunes and Stitcher to hear more!

About the Author

Kara Rota

Kara Rota headed children’s programming at Chicago’s Green City Market and studied food politics at Sarah Lawrence College. Kara has been a featured speaker at numerous venues including Food Book Fair, the Roger Smith Food Conference, and the Brooklyn Food Conference. She has written about food for Irish America Magazine, West Side Rag, Recipe Relay, and Food + Tech Connect, and is the former Director of Editorial & Partnerships at Cookstr.com.