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Exploring the History of Cocktails Across America


One book explores the development of mixed drinks through the Great Depression and the Cold War.

Photo by Faceout Studio, Jeff Miller

Flipping through Cocktails Across America, you’d never know that the decades depicted traverse the Great Depression, World War II, and the Cold War. Diane Lapis and Anne Peck-Davis have pooled their collections of vintage postcards to highlight the escapism that fueled American social life in this era.

Mirroring the glamour on the silver screen, mixology hit its stride post-Prohibition. While classic drinks regained popularity, previously foreign liquors like Kahlua, vodka, and tequila garnered mass appeal. These spirits were accompanied not only by new cocktails, but also by novelties like the merry-go-round bar; the tiki bar, which capitalized on newfound fascination with the south Pacific; and “tank shows,” where ice skaters would perform on frozen stages for the cocktail crowd.

These beverages and bars, some of which have long since been forgotten, are revived in Cocktails Across America. Filled with history, cocktail recipes, and gorgeous postcards on nearly every page, the book itself is a piece of Americana.

Cocktails Across America: A Postcard View of Cocktail Culture in the 1930s, ’40s, and ’50s By Diane Lapis and Anne Peck-Davis
224 pages, The Countryman Press, $24.95 (hardcover)

Related: Two Summer Cocktails to Beat the Heat

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