Speakeasy Brown – Prohibition Era Whiskey Cocktails

These are classic cocktails that have stood against the tests of time, and witnessed massive changes in both the quality of booze that is poured into them and the drinkers who consume them. That being said they are staples that bartenders and drinkers keep going back to, and for excellent reasons: they are simply great drinks.

These recipes are essentials for any bartender to know, we recommend following the original recipes and mastering the flavor profiles involved before modifying them to suit your palate, or the preferences of those you’re serving. Not all of these fit every drinker, but these cocktails provide a strong base and can help you develop the skills and techniques to build beautifully balanced cocktails.


A simple brown spirit and soda highball was a common order during the Prohibition era. Most modern one and one mixed drinks started here, with the humble but delicious scotch and soda.

  • 2 ounces whiskey or scotch
  • 4 ounces club soda
  • garnish with lemon twist

Old Fashioned

The Old Fashioned has been around since the beginning of cocktailing. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, if you asked a bartender for a “whiskey cocktail” you’d get some version of an Old Fashioned. While this cocktail in some form survived Prohibition, it evolved during those 13 years and a variety of creative cocktailers all pursued credit, causing conflicting versions of the origin and standards for the recipe.

  • 2 oz. rye or bourbon
  • 2 dashes Angostura bitters
  • 1 sugar cube
  • Club soda

Ward 8

Created before Prohibition, it’s popularity soared during the “dry” years. Made using Rye whiskey during Prohibiton, the roughness of the product from the time was buffered by the tartness of lemon juice, brightness of orange juice, and sweetness of grenadine. Now, with better quality rye the smoothness of this drink is enhanced and made more complex by those same ingredients.

  • 2 oz rye whiskey
  • ½ oz lemon juice
  • ½ oz orange juice
  • 2 tsp grenadine
  • 2 cherries, for garnish

The Scofflaw

A drink and a name that literally flies in the face of Prohibition. The recipe was created outside of Prohibition at Harry’s New York Bar in Paris in 1924 and was quickly taken up by Americans. Likely originally made with Canadian whiskey, we prefer to make a Scofflaw with a solid American spicy rye. 

  • 2 oz Rye Whiskey
  • 1 oz dry vermouth
  • 1/4 oz lemon juice
  • 1/2 oz grenadine
  • 2 dashes orange bitters

Mint Julep

The creation of the Mint Julep predates Prohibition, one of the first references to the mint julep goes as far back as 1784 when mint juleps were used (like many alcoholic concoctions) as medicine. Back then, they didn’t specify the liquor involved, but it’s likely that whiskey, gin, and rum were the contenders. Whiskey became the booze of choice during Prohibition mostly due to availability, and the popularity soared due to the sweetness and aromatic qualities ability to mask the occasionally poor quality of the liquor.

  • 2 oz Bourbon (Higher proof recommended)
  • 1/2 oz simple syrup
  • 4-6 muddled fresh mint leaves
  • Crushed ice
  • Garnish with 2-3 mint leaves