Golden Age of Cocktails: drink like it’s the 1920s

by Seren Hollins, food & drink historian

Pull on a flapper dress, bring out the *bathtub gin and strike up some big band jazz music, as we mix up some stylish 1920’s cocktails and celebrate the delights of gin.

When it comes to mixing cocktails there are so many choices, but in my opinion gin is the best clear spirit on your bar. Its botanical flavours means it can lend itself to refreshing cocktails from gimlets and punches to smashes and Martinis. So chin, chin or Bottoms up if you prefer as we look at some classic 1920’s cocktails.

Bee’s Knees

The expression “bee’s knees” was popular during the 1920s, meaning that something was the best. This cocktail was popular because it used bathtub gin, which was smoothed out with sweet honey and lemon juice.

  • 50ml gin
  • 10ml runny honey
  • 5ml water
  • 15ml fresh lemon juice
  • Ice cubes


Stir the honey into the water until dissolved to make a syrup. Pour into a cocktail shaker with the gin, lemon juice and a couple of ice cubes. Shake and strain into a cocktail glass of your choice.

Gin Fizz

  • 50ml gin
  • 30ml lemon juice
  • 10ml sugar syrup
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 20ml lightly whipped egg white (optional)
  • Chilled soda water, quantity to taste


Shake up the gin, lemon juice, sugar syrup, sugar and egg white (if using) in a cocktail shaker with a little ice and strain into a highball glass half-filled with ice cubes. Top up with soda water.

The Gimlet

The Gimlet is the Green Godess of cocktails, lime-heavy with a rich naval history and a sharp kick. It’s origins aren’t the most glamorous, afterall scurvy has never been sensuous– but it’s long been adopted as a sipping drink by the cocktail drinking masses and it is so very easy to make. In 1928,  D. B. Wesson,  in ‘I’ll Never Be Cured’ described gimlet as “gin, a spot of lime, and soda’, and whilst my recipe is slightly more elaborate than this it is the simplest of drinks.


  • 60ml gin
  • 15ml lime juice
  • 10ml sugar syrup
  • Twist of lime zest to garnish


Pour the gin, juice and sugar syrup into a tumbler half-filled with ice. Stir gently. Garnish with the lime zest.


Garden Gin Martini

A quick chat with Cringletie House’s ( resident, award winning bartender, Mark Barrett (and the man responsible for introducing me to saffron gin) yielded a wonderful vintage inspired cocktail that is great for 1920’s style garden parties.

Mark explains ‘’This drink is based around a health drink recipe I stumbled across and I figured it’ll be good fun to add some booze to it’. He decided a good quality gin was the perfect match for the healthy combination of fruit and vegetables.


One apple diced

Two kiwi peeled and diced

Juice of 1 lime

A handful of spinach

One stalk of celery

One tsp of honey (I used heather honey because I love the flavour)


50mls gin


Simply blend all the ingredients together with 50mls of your chosen gin after its been blended simply strain into a cocktail glass and enjoy.


*Bathtub gin refers to any style of homemade spirit made in amateur conditions. The term first appeared in 1920, in the prohibition-era United States, in reference to the poor-quality alcohol that was being made during the prohibition period, though today you can enjoy some mighty good artisan gins and relax in the bathtub if you like.



  • Seren Charrington Hollins

    Seren runs a catering business and delicatessen in Mid Wales, but she is not your run of the mill caterer or deli owner. She is a mother of six and an internationally recognised food historian who has created banquets and historical dinner parties for private clients and television. Her work has been featured on the BBC, ITV & Channel 4 and she has appeared in BBC4’s Castle’s Under Siege, BBC South's Ration Book Britain, Pubs that Built Britain with The Hairy Bikers, BBC 2’s Inside the Factory, BBC 2’s The World’s Most Amazing Hotels, the Channel 4 series Food Unwrapped and Country Files Autumn Diaries. Her work has also been featured in The Guardian, The Times, Sunday Times, Daily Mail and The Telegraph. Her two most recent books are 'Revolting Recipes from History' and 'A Dark History of Tea'

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