Downton Dish: Cocktails

Ahh, the 1920s. While America was mired in Prohibition, Europe was discovering that mixing various types of hard liquor together with a little juice was a really good way to (temporarily) forget the horrors of the Great War. Bright Young Things gathered in bars in Berlin, London, Paris, and Venice to sample Honey Bees, Pussyfoots, and, yes, martinis and Manhattans. Eventually, event smart houses like Downton started serving before-dinner mixed drinks, though the older generation such as the Dowager probably would have stuck to the more traditional sherry.

Cocktails weren’t actually new in the 1920s–the first use of the word in print was in 1803 in the States–but this was a time of great innovation, and the best bartenders in many big cities became famous in their own right. You might not have Harry MacEthone (bartender at Ciro’s club in London who published one of the first cocktail books, Harry’s ABC of Mixing Cocktails, in 1919. It’s still in print today), but that doesn’t mean you can’t whip up a batch of one of these classics, or even invent one of your own! Do something jolly with your hair, serve some of these, and soon nobody will even notice the stove’s not working and you’re all eating cold cuts and singing Let Me Call You Sweetheart.

Champagne Cocktail

champagne cocktail, courtesy Stoli VodkaSource: BBC Food

Edith’s getting married! Break out the fizzies!

Serves 1


1 white sugar cube

2 dashes bitters

20ml (3/4 oz) cognac

Enough champagne to fill the glass


Place the sugar cube on a spoon and add the bitters.

Drop the soaked cube into a champagne flute and add the cognac

Top with champagne, toast Edith’s happiness, and drink


Source: BBC Food

Serves 1


15ml (3/4 oz) vermouth

60ml (2 oz) vodka

Twist of lemon or olives to garnish


Pour vermouth and vodka into a mixing glass or shaker and fill with ice cubes. Shake or stir according to taste. Strain into a martini glass.

Garnish with lemon or olives.

Violet Fizz

In honour of our favourite dowager

Source: Drinks by Jacques (pub 1914)


Juice of ½ lemon

1 barspoonful sugar

¾ jigger gin

¼ jigger creme de violet


Mix all and top with fizzy water


Manhattan Cocktail, inspiredtaste.netLegend has it this was invented in 1874 by Dr Ian Marshall for a banquet hosted by Jennie Jerome (Winston Churchill’s American socialite mother). Or it might have been invented by a bartender on Broadway in the 1860s. Feel free to pick which story you like best.


Serves 1


3/4 oz sweet vermouth

2 1/2 oz bourbon

Dash bitters

1 maraschino cherry

1 twist orange peel


Combine the vermouth, bourbon whiskey, and bitters with 2 – 3 ice cubes in a mixing glass. Stir gently; don’t bruise the spirits and cloud the drink.
Place the cherry in a chilled cocktail glass and strain the whiskey mixture over the cherry. Rub the cut edge of the orange peel over the rim of the glass and twist it over the drink to release the oils but don’t drop it in.
Didn’t find what you wanted? This book, published in 1914, is incredibly comprehensive.
Special thanks to Jazz Age Club for all the great info!

One thought on “Downton Dish: Cocktails

  1. America may have been mired in Prohibition, but cocktails were still being served there. In fact, American bartenders seeking jobs overseas were responsible for introducing cocktails in Britain and other parts of Europe.

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