Many of the drinks we associate with the Mad Men era of the 1950s, like the Manhattan and Martini, were invented long before Don Draper was drinking them for breakfast. The new drinks of the ‘50s were inspired by the hot trends of the ‘40s—such as tiki’s explosion out of California and vodka, which was increasingly popular and available Stateside. Here, the best drinks of the 1950s, perfect for a 1950s cocktail party.
The 7 Best Drinks From the 1950s
Bartenders at the Holiday Isle Tiki Bar in Islamorada, Florida, created this cocktail as an homage to the rum runners who imported hooch on the sly to American drinkers during Prohibition. Though the surprisingly simple cocktail was created a decade after tiki’s heyday, the drink has become a tiki standard today.
The Pink Squirrel is Wisconsin’s rosy response to the classic green Grasshopper, which swaps in almond liqueur for the older cocktail’s crème de menthe. Though it can be (and often is) served as a milkshake, we prefer it shaken, sans ice cream.
crème de noyaux
white crème de cacao
While the Bloody Mary is today’s “it” savory cocktail, the Bullshot was the equivalent of a viral sensation in 1952. From Los Angeles to New York City, journalists, celebrities and everyone in their wake went gaga over this cocktail made with beef stock. Don’t have a cow—it’s better than it sounds. See what all the hubbub was about and spike your broth.
Like its fellow Breezes, the Bay Breeze wasn’t hip right off the bat due to cranberry juice earning a bad rap from the Health Department. But (safely regulated) cranberries and pineapple go together like a horse and carriage, especially when spiked with vodka. The good folks of the 1950s couldn’t dig it, but we certainly can.
As America's youth sipped on milkshakes at the soda fountain, their parents downed dessert cocktails at the bar. They were especially fond of those made with a shot of coffee flavored liqueur, like the Kahlúa in this malty shake out of Wreck Bar & Grill in the Cayman Islands. Made with both Irish cream and ice cream, this blended concoction packs a serious caloric punch , but you’d be hard pressed to find a better grown-up treat, Daddy-O.
vanilla ice cream
Elvis’ Blue Hawaii didn’t come out until 1961, but this cocktail predates the film by four years. Bright blue curaçao is responsible for the drink’s electric color, which titillated vacationers at the Hilton Hawaiian Village in Waikiki where it was invented. Sixty years later and we still feel the shocking current with every sip of this tiki tipple.
This creamy standard made its debut some time between the creation of its progenitor, the Black Russian, in the 1950s and the first report of the milky variation in 1965. While you probably know it from The Big Lebowski—be honest, of course that’s how you know it—it’s utterly dudely of you to recognize the true origin of this classic.