How did gin lovers drink a century ago? These five historic cocktail recipes offer a delicious passport to another era.

Have you ever wondered what cocktail culture was like 100 years ago? Ponder no more: the British Library has recently reissued the historic Cocktail Book. First published in 1900 as The Gentleman’s Cocktail Book, and originally in print for three decades—even in the midst of US Prohibition—this recipe collection offers a wide-ranging compendium of historic serves. Some of them sippers might recognise today; others might otherwise have been lost to the sands of time. But for the amateur cocktail sleuth, all provide a fascinating picture of the past.

Begin your explorations with five gin-led recipes from the book, excerpted below. Their formatting might look a little different from today’s recipes—and they might varyingly call for Tom Gin, Plymouth Gin, or Holland Gin—but we find London Dry Gin makes an excellent all-round base.

Martini Cocktail — No. 1

This Martini doesn’t quite resemble the bracing number that today’s drinkers are used to. Instead, a heavy helping of vermouth and orange bitters makes for a wholly different serve. Should you want to explore further, the book also includes a recipe for a Martini No. 2, which uses Boker’s bitters and adds half a teaspoon of sherry to the mix.

Use Mixing Glass

Three dashes orange bitters; one-half Tom gin; one-half Italian vermouth; small piece lemon peel. Fill with ice, mix, and strain into a cocktail glass.

Puritan Cocktail

Pay the name no heed—this spirit-driven number isn’t for the faint of heart. The addition of chartreuse lends this serve a distinctive yellow hue. 

Use Mixing Glass

Three dashes orange bitters; one spoonful yellow chartreuse; two-thirds Plymouth gin; one-third French vermouth. Fill with ice, mix, and strain into a cocktail glass.

Tuxedo Cocktail

This historic cocktail is as elegant as its name suggests. Mix one up for any occasion—it certainly won’t go out of style.

Use Mixing Glass

One dash Angostura bitters; one spoonful sherry; one-half Tom gin; one-half Italian vermouth. Fill with ice, mix, and strain into a cocktail glass.

Yale Cocktail 

Pretend to be an Ivy League undergraduate for an evening when you quaff this simple and refreshing serve. For those not familiar, note that Boker’s bitters were created by John G. Boker in 1828, and “was one of the most common ingredients used in cocktail until the turn of the century.” However, the brand was revived in 2009; bottles can be found here.

Use Mixing Glass

Three dashes orange bitters; one dash Boker’s bitters; piece lemon peel; one portion Tom gin. Fill with ice, mix, and strain into a cocktail glass; add a squirt of siphon seltzer.

Silver Fizz 

This historic cocktail recipe might well be described as a simple gin sour, but its name adds an extra dose of bubbly ebullience.

Use Mixing Glass

One tablespoonful sugar; three or four dashes lemon juice; one wine glass Tom gin; white of one egg. Fill glass with ice, shake well, strain into fizz glass, and fill with siphon.

Feature images © Richard Brown/iStock; IvoPetkov/iStock; The British Library

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