Starring Leonardo Di Caprio, Tobey Maguire and Carey Mulligan, the movie - just presented to the Cannes Film Festival - brings F. Scott Fitzgerald’s enduring tale of decadence and doomed love in 1920s America to a new audience. It will whisk them back to a time of easy money and prohibition, where sweeteners, juices and sodas were often added to bootlegged booze to mask the harsh taste of illicit alcohol. The film’s lavish party scenes - with bare-armed flappers in cloche hats, dapper chaps in flannel suits, dazzling jazz and Art Deco backdrops - will inspire many a ‘roaring twenties’ themed cocktail bash. So here’s a guide to some of the cocktails that flourished in the Jazz Age.
Scott Fitzgerald himself was partial to a Gin Rickey. It belongs to a class of drink involving a spirit, half a lime and sparkling soda or mineral water or poured over ice. The original - the Joe Rickey - is said to have been invented at Shoomaker’s bar in Washington DC by Col. Joe Rickey of Missourri, who added lime to his regular tipple of bourbon, ice and carbonated water. Substitute gin for the bourbon, and you have the cocktail that Gatsby, Nick Carraway and the rest drink “... in long, greedy swallows” on a blisteringly hot day at Tom and Daisy Buchanan’s mansion in The Great Gatsby.
Method: Into a chilled tall glass, squeeze the juice of half a lime over 3 or 4 ice large cubes, add the rind. Pour over 1.5 shots of gin. Add sparkling water or club soda to the top. Serve.
The Ritz Hotel in Paris claims to have invented the Sidecar. Another story says the mix of cognac, cointreau and lemon juice was named after the motorcycle sidecar used to ferry an American army captain to and from his favourite bistro bar. There are probably as many stories about the Sidecar’s invention as there are variations of the drink - it can be made with bourbon instead of cognac, or indeed with rum, making it not too dissimilar from the classic daiquiri.
Method: Take a chilled cocktail glass, rub the rim with lemon juice, dip it in sugar. Pour 1 1/2 shots of cognac, 3/4 of a shot of cointreau, 3/4 of a shot of freshly squeezed lemon juice and cracked ice into a cocktail shaker. Shake. Strain into the cocktail glass. Serve.
Whether you have it shaken or stirred, the Martini is a classic cocktail that should be in every self-respecting mixologist’s repertoire. Its origin has been claimed by hotel bars from San Francisco to New York, but it flourished during the 1920s thanks to the proliferation of bootleg gin. There are many variations, but the classic mix of gin, dry vermouth and a single green olive remains iconic to this day.
Method: Pour two and a half shots of gin and half a shot of dry vermouth onto ice cubes in a mixing glass. Stir for at least 20 seconds. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass, garnish with a green olive. Serve.
Like a stripped-down Martini, the Gimlet traditionally adds lime cordial (preferably Rose’s) to gin to create a cocktail with a punch. Some say it was created by a British naval surgeon, Captain Gimlette, in an attempt to get sailors to consume lime in order to keep scurvy at bay. Or perhaps it’s so named because it has the piercing quality of a gimlet tool? Either way, its simplicity is its strength.
Method: Pour two shots of gin and one shot of Rose’s Lime Juice cordial over ice cubes in a mixing glass. Stir well. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass with no garnish. Serve.
On a stifling, tense afternoon in The Great Gatsby, Daisy Buchanan picks a suite in New York’s Plaza Hotel as “a place to have a mint julep” The cocktail of bourbon, mint, sugar and ice is traditionally linked with Daisy’s hometown of Louisville, Kentucky, and to this day mint juleps are associated with the annual Kentucky Derby horse race. At the race, mint juleps are served in a sterling silver cup, but a tall glass will suffice. The word ‘julep‘ derives from the Persian word ‘gulab,‘ meaning rose water.
Method: Put a handful of freshly washed mint leaves and a heaped teaspoon of sugar in a chilled tall glass. Crush them together slightly with a cocktail muddler. Scatter finely cracked ice on top to halfway, stir briskly. Pour on two shots of bourbon. Heap on more crushed ice, stir, and add a sprig of mint to garnish. Serve.