Cocktails Throughout the Ages

Libations. Tincture. Nip. Cocktail. Liquid Refreshment. Aperitif. Hooch. Toddy. Hard Stuff. Spirits.

These words all have one thing in common – ALCOHOL. There have been some interesting trends throughout history when it comes to booze. We are going to start in the Victorian Era and make a few pit stops and highlight some eras that particularly stand out in history… So put on your party hats, get your favorite wine glass and don’t forget to buckle your seat belt!

woman in black and green long sleeve clothes
Photo by Naval Singh on

Imagine… 1892, 5PM, Paris… the clinking of glasses, laughter and chatter. The entire room is buzzing. Everyone has glasses filled with a green tincture. The more they drink, the more excited and flamboyant they become. The conversations move from talking about the days work, to elaborate discussions about art and theology, grandiose stories are being told and everyone in the room is chasing the Green Fairy!

Absinthe was the drink of the day for Victorians, from the 1880’s to the turn of the century, drinking absinthe at cocktail hour became commonplace – thus garnering the nickname l’heure verte (the green hour) for the liquors bright green color. Absinthe was was the “beverage du jour” for artist, writers and poets, and was known as the drink of the Bohemians.

The Absinthe Drinker (Pijak absintu) Café Slavia, Prague 1901 by Viktor Oliva

By 1915 Absinthe had pretty much been banned worldwide. As of 2007, Absinthe is once legal (in most of the world at least).

We’ve got two different absinthe recipes for you to try out – one is the Traditional French Method and the other is a Bohemian Style Absinthe (Czech Method)

Traditional French Absinthe

Select a quality bottle – you want to look for a bottle that is 45-68% alcohol by volume.

Pour the absinthe into a glass. Place an absinthe spoon on the top of the glass and set a single sugar cube on top of the spoon (the sugar is traditionally used to balance the bitter taste of absinthe).

Very slowly drip 3 to 5 parts of iced water onto the sugar cube to dissolve the sugar cube into the absinthe using an Absinthe Fountain – or slowly pouring from a carafe or pitcher. It is important to do this DROP BY DROP. (The water added to the absinthe must always be iced, and as cold as possible)

The usual ration for absinthe to water is 1:3 or 1:5. A traditional 2 oz. of absinthe with 6 oz. of water will equal an 8 oz. drink and fill most of your glass. The amount of water added to your drink is entirely at your discretion, and taste.

Your sugar cube will start to dissolve and collapse into the glass, leaving a few drops of sugared water on your spoon. As this is happening, the Absinthe will begin to turn milky white – this is known as the “louche” effect.

According to the brand of absinthe you use in your drink, there is a considerable variety both in color and in the opacity of the louche.

As you pour in the water, watch the as it mixes with the absinthe. When the water-to-absinthe ratio reaches a certain level, the essential oils which are dissolved in the absinthe during distillation will emulsify with the water and create the opalescent and cloudy effect known as the “louche.” Seeing the absinthe drink gradually change color was considered a part of its ritualistic attraction.

When the sugar cube has almost completely dissolved, add the rest of the iced water – as needed – in a thin stream. Now mix it all together with your absinthe spoon.

You’re now ready to head down the mystical rabbit hole and find the wonders that await you! Enjoy!

Bohemian Style Absinthe (Czech Style)

Time to add a little flair to your absinthe game! The Bohemian Style Absinthe adds a little fire to the mix – this method (or gimmick some would say) was introduced in the 1990’s by Czech Absinthe producers.

This method is not recommended because it can be dangerous due to the high alcohol content in absinthe.

To pull off this show of dramatic flair, drip some absinthe onto your sugar cube, sitting on the absinthe spoon, and light it on fire for approximately 1 minute. The fire will caramelize the sugar as it drips down into the absinthe in the glass (the caramelized sugar adds an additional layer of flavor. This unusual method uses 1/2 the water of the French method, and thus making it a stronger drink.

Try some of these other favorite Absinthe cocktails

Sazerac Cocktail:

This drink is considered by historians as the first cocktail ever invented.  It was originally created by a New Orleans pharmacy in the early 19th century to ward off tropical malaise.


1 1/2 ounces absinthe
2 ounces Cognac
3 dashes Peychaud’s Bitters
1/2 teaspoon granulated sugar


Shake with ice and strain into an old-fashion glass (or an egg-cup, garnish with lemon peel.

Absinthe Suissesse:

This cocktail is a staple at The Old Absinthe House in New Orleans. There are many variations of this drink. It is also one of the finest “morning after” remedies you will ever taste.


1 1/2 ounces absinthe
1/2 ounce Orgeat Syrup*
1 egg white
1/2 ounce cream
4 ounces shaved or crushed ice

* Orgeat Syrup is a sweet syrup made from almonds, sugar, and either rose water or orange-flower water.


Combine all ingredients in a blender, blend for 5 seconds and serve in a chilled cocktail glass.

Ernest Hemingway’s Death in the Afternoon Cocktail:

A recipe verified in the 1935 humoristic celebrities’ cocktail book titled, So Red the Nose, or Breath in the Afternoon. Hemingway wrote: “This was arrived at by the author and three officers of the H.M.S. Danae after having spent seven hours overboard trying to get Capt. Bra Saunders’ fishing boat off a bank where she had gone with us in a N.W. gale.”


Pour one (1) jigger absinthe into a Champagne glass.


Add iced Champagne until it attains the proper opalescent milkiness.

Drink three to five of these slowly.

Absinthe Martini – European style:

The mixture below was created around the beginning of the 20th century, when it became fashionable in France to drink American-style’ cocktails.


1 1/2 ounces dry vermouth
1 dash absinthe
1 dash orange bitters


Shake with ice and strain into a cocktail glass.
Green Fairy Cocktail:
1 ounce absinthe
1 ounce water
Juice of 1 lemon
2 teaspoons egg white
1 dash Angostura bitters

Shake thoroughly with ice and strain into a cocktail glass.

Thanks for stopping by! New blogs coming next week! We’ve got another fun post on Floriography coming up – and part two of our cocktails throughout the ages coming up!

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Topher Mulholland
Topher Mulholland

Co-Founder and Managing Creative Director for The Bazaar | Vintage Finds, Topher spends his free time thrifting and going to estate sales with his partner – all the while running and maintaining an ever-growing social media presence for their website, a carefully curated collection of vintage finds!

History Sources:

Absinthe, Cocktails, by Kathy Hamlim.
Absinthe: History in a Bottle, by Barnaby Conrad III, published by Chronicle books, 1988.
Absinthe: The Cocaine of the Nineteenth Century, by Doris Laniers, published by McFarland Books, 1995.

The Virtual Absinthe Museum.
Famous Absinthe Drinkers, by Randal Huiskens.
Handy-Book of Curious Information, by William S.Walsh, published by Omnigraphi, 1998.
The Hemingway Cookbook, by Craig Boreth, published by Chicago Review Press, 1998.
The Savory Cocktail Book, by Harry Craddock.
The Wormwood Society.

Posted by:Topher Mulholland

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