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The Popular Mixed Drinks of the 50s & 60's

by Cassie Damewood, studioD

Alcohol consumption has been practiced since time began, but mixed drinks, also called cocktails, only became popular in America during Prohibition when the liquor was so unpalatable it had to be cut with other ingredients to mask the taste. Since then, many mixed drink recipes have evolved. During the 50s and 60s, a wide variety of cocktails gained favor, most of which are still popular.


Classic martinis are a simple mix of gin and dry vermouth; the less vermouth, the drier the martini. Some people use vodka instead of gin but the original recipe was only made with gin. A Gibson martini is garnished with cocktail onions instead of olives. Manhattans contain bourbon, sweet vermouth and bitters. A vodka Gimlet was originally made with fresh lime juice and vodka, although bottle lime juice is frequently used today. Sweeter drinks of that era include black Russians -- a mix of vodka and coffee liqueur -- and white Russians, with a bit of cream added. Tom Collins cocktails are refreshing and light, consisting of lemon juice, sugar and gin. Another classic cocktail of the 50s and 60s was the whiskey sour, which is similar to a Tom Collins but made with whiskey instead of gin.

Tropically Inspired

After World War II, servicemen and women came home with a newfound taste for rum, and drinks inspired by tropical regions gained in popularity. The simplest rum drink was the Cuba libre, a concoction of rum, lime juice and cola. Pina coladas, created by mixing rum, pineapple juice and coconut cream, were sipped around the pool during this era, along with mai tais and zombies. A mai tai contains both light and dark rum, lime juice, orange Curacao and oregeat syrup. Zombies, so potent many bars only serve them when two or more people are sharing the drink, are made with 151-proof rum, additional light and dark rum, apricot brandy, sugar and pineapple, orange and lime juices. Daiquiris are comparatively simple cocktails, a mixture of rum, lime juice and simple syrup.

Brunch Favorites

Although the idea of brunch was first suggested by a British author in the late 1800s, it wasn't until the 1930s that it caught on in America. It soon started to feature mixed drinks, many of which included juice. Bloody Marys are a mixture of vodka, tomato juice and spices. Screwdrivers combine vodka and orange juice. Greyhound cocktails mix grapefruit juice with vodka. A fancier blended brunch drink called a gin or Ramos fizz, traditionally contains gin, cream, egg whites, club soda and orange juice or orange flower water.

Sweet and Pretty

As with food, drinks are first consumed visually. Many drinks of the 50s and 60s, particularly those geared toward women, had beautiful presentations and less hard liquor in them than other types of cocktails. Grasshoppers contain green creme de menthe, white creme de cacao and cream. The lovely pink squirrel is a mixture of creme de noyaux, creme de cacao, vodka and cream. A sloe gin fizz, tinted red by the sweet berries in the sloe gin liqueur, is completed with lemon juice, sugar and a splash of club soda. A mint julep, the most potent drink of the group, is made with fresh mint sprigs, sugar, bourbon and sometimes a splash of water or club soda.

About the Author

Cassie Damewood has been a writer and editor since 1985. She writes about food and cooking for various websites, including My Great Recipes, and serves as the copy editor for "Food Loves Beer" magazine. Damewood completed a Bachelor of Arts in English with an emphasis in creative writing at Miami University.

Photo Credits

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