Queen Bee Mixology

The Renaissance of Vintage Cocktails

The Renaissance of Vintage Cocktails

The Roaring Twenties: a time of flapper dresses, jazz tunes, and, most notably, the Prohibition era. But even with the restrictions, creativity bloomed in the underground speakeasies, giving birth to some of the most beloved cocktails we enjoy today. Fast forward to our current decade, and we’re witnessing a delightful resurgence of these vintage cocktails, bringing old-time charm to our modern bars. If you’ve ever been curious about the allure of these timeless concoctions, you’re in the right place!

Why the Renewed Love for Vintage Cocktails?

The past few years have seen a steady rise in the love for nostalgia. Whether it’s fashion, music, or cinema, there’s been a shift towards embracing the ‘good old days.’ Cocktails are no exception. Mixologists and cocktail enthusiasts have been diving deep into history, excavating forgotten recipes, and breathing new life into them.

Another driving force behind this revival is the craft cocktail movement. As bartenders strive to stand out and offer unique experiences, what better way than to resurrect drinks that have stood the test of time? These age-old recipes are the perfect canvas for modern twists, creating a fusion of past and present in every sip.

Some Time-Honored Treasures

Let’s delve into some vintage gems that have been making a grand re-entry into the mixology scene:

The Sidecar: Originating from either London or Paris during World War I, the Sidecar is a delightful blend of cognac, Cointreau, and lemon juice. It’s the epitome of class in a glass!

The Bee’s Knees: This Prohibition-era classic was named after the popular 1920s phrase which meant “the best.” Made with gin, lemon juice, and honey, it was originally crafted to mask the taste of poorly-made bathtub gin. Above, I’ve made a delicious variation on this drink called The Busy Bee.

The French 75: A cocktail with a bang! Named after a powerful French 75mm field gun, it’s a sparkling concoction of gin, Champagne, lemon juice, and sugar.

Boulevardier: Think of it as the bourbon cousin of the Negroni. The Boulevardier blends bourbon, sweet vermouth, and Campari to create a rich and bittersweet cocktail.

Aviation: This pale cocktail gets its distinctive hue from creme de violette, gin, and maraschino liqueur. It’s a floral and slightly sweet concoction.

Finding the Right Balance in Modern Times

While the charm of these vintage cocktails lies in their rich history, the modern bartender’s challenge is to keep them relevant. This involves subtle tweaks—like using fresh, high-quality ingredients, or incorporating contemporary techniques without losing the drink’s essence. For instance, the Bee’s Knees might now use organic honey from a local farm, adding a layer of depth and sweetness not found in the original version.

It’s also essential to respect the context of these drinks. Many were born out of necessity, using the ingredients available at the time. So, while it’s tempting to give them a complete makeover, the magic often lies in their simplicity. The Renaissance of vintage cocktails isn’t just a passing trend; it’s a nod to the artistry and resilience of bartenders of yesteryears. So, the next time you’re at a bar or mixing drinks at home, why not give these vintage beauties a try?

If you enjoyed diving into the world of vintage cocktails with me, keep an eye on this space for more mixology magic, stories, and recipes.


Author Meet Kelly Sparks, the creative mastermind and cocktail influencer behind @QueenBeeMixology. While mixology may not be her day job, it is her passion. As the Founder and CEO of VMG Studios, a successful and award-winning creative agency and video production studio, Kelly brings her expertise in creativity to the world of cocktails. As a self-taught and dedicated do-it-yourselfer, Kelly makes the journey to amazing cocktails accessible to everyone. And when she’s not hard at work, you can find her sipping a delicious drink with her husband.

To mix drinks like a pro, check out my go-to bar tools and glasses.