Prohibition and the Art of a Great Cocktail


Who knew that the prohibition movement was directly tied into the woman’s suffrage movement? This was just one of the amazing things I learned this week when touring the Spirited: Prohibition in America exhibit at the Upcountry History Museum-Furman University, which runs through March 16th. (More about this in a moment…)

I’ve always been fascinated by the creativity that came out of one of America’s most tumultuous times, the Rip Roarin’ 20’s. From clothing to cocktails, style became an indispensable part of life. In that spirit, the creativity of the prohibition movement birthed some of our best-known cocktails, such as the Sidecar and the French 75. It was also a well-known time of speakeasies, where libations, and sometimes dinner and dancing (including the risqué dance known as the Charleston) may have rounded out the night.

The Spirited: Prohibition in America exhibit balances the challenges of the time period while honoring the cultural dynamic of one of the most creative periods in cocktailing history. The 1920’s weren’t perfect. They began amidst a myriad of problems, from lack of women’s voting rights to an extreme culture of drinking, and finished in The Great Depression. For enthusiasts and naysayers, the exhibit does a fantastic job of balancing both sides of the 1920’s story.

For cocktail lovers, what came out of the time period became iconic: not only in how a culture developed around consuming alcohol together, but also in the way an experience was created. The recipes combined unique ingredients, preparation, and presentation that helped to shape our cocktail culture today. Nearly 100 years later, this rich history lives on in joyous reflection. In music, dancing, clothing, and iconic venues, we celebrate a time-honored tradition by enjoying a perfectly-crafted cocktail amongst good company.

From “Spirited”, here is the perfect recipe for a champagne punch that can be served for a few close friends, or can be multiplied for a larger crowd:

Champagne Punch


1 quart bottle of wine

¼ pound of sugar

1 orange sliced

The juice of a lemon

3 slices of pineapple

1 wine glass of raspberry or strawberry syrup

Directions: Ornament with fruits in season, and serve in champagne goblets.

This can be made in any quantity and observing the proportions of the ingredients as given above. Four bottles of wine make a gallon, and a gallon is generally sufficient for fifteen persons in a mixed party. (Punch recipe from How to Mix Drinks by Jerry Thomas, 1862)

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Emily Cox
I'm Emily Cox. I'm 39 (and holding). I'm a Greenville native. My biggest problem in life is that I.... can' bored. It just won't happen. I'm on the move, eagerly connecting, and always exploring. I love finding new recipes and I'm a huge fan of the social aspects of cocktails.

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