Top 10 drinks of the 20th century

13th May, 2013 by Amy Hopkins

From absinthe to Bourbon, martinis to slippery nipples, our favoured spirits and cocktails changed dramatically over the 20th century.

20th century spirits

Naval officers stop for a cheeky rum break during the Second World War

While spirits such as gin, whisky and rum have been popular in the western world for centuries, the 20th century saw a massive swell in both the quantity and diversity of spirits consumed.

As more and more people across the world cultivated a taste for different spirits, these drinks became an astute indicator of the contemporary zeitgeist.

Although our preferred poisons changed throughout the prohibitions, liberations, invasions and depressions of the 20th century, spirits remained a fixed presence in the lives of people all over the world.

This list takes a look at everything from the risky spirits enjoyed by debauched Victorians at the turn of the century, to the choice cocktail of busy city dwellers at its close.

If you have any other ideas which haven’t made the cut, leave a comment below.

4 Responses to “Top 10 drinks of the 20th century”

  1. Daryl Haldane says:

    Torpedo juice should be in there!! Although terrible and probably deadly, you have to appreciate the ingenuity of sailors in the 2nd world war. Distilled from batteries at the rear of the torpedo : distilled in mess tins and filtered through bread, once they removed the ends. Genius!! All because the were cut if from rations on patrol in the pacific!! Little known but highlights we will get booze even in the worst possible situations.

  2. Mark Arnest says:

    While my experience is that absinthe has a subtly different effect than gin or bourbon – just as tequila or rum have subtly different effects than gin or bourbon – it’s disheartening to read in 2013 about the drink’s “purported psychoactive properties.” Indeed, exhibit #1 against this myth is the drink’s earlier popularity: If a couple million Frenchmen had been tripping every day over some 35 years (the period of absinthe’s domination in France), it would have been banned a lot sooner than it was. Even when the ban is being debated, it’s the long-term effects – “absinthism” – that are reputed to be harmful. Short-term effects are not mentioned.

    But don’t believe me – here’s renowned author and dipsomaniac Jack London on the subject of absinthe, from his alcoholic memoir “John Barleycorn”: “And so it was that I reached the Marquesas the possessor of a real, man’s size thirst. And in the Marquesas were several white men, a lot of sickly natives, much magnificent scenery, plenty of trade rum, an immense quantity of absinthe, but neither whisky nor gin. The trade rum scorched the skin of one’s mouth. I know because I tried it. But I had ever been plastic, and I accepted the absinthe. The trouble with the stuff was that I had to take such inordinate quantities in order to feel the slightest effect.”

  3. Cocktailgeek says:

    If your Mai Tai is “outrageously sweet”, you’re doing it all wrong.

  4. Muffy says:

    Oh no wheres the bloody mary!!!

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