Top Ten Cocktails from the Golden Age of Hollywood

Reynard Loki


In the 1936 screwball comedy mystery The Ex-Mrs. Bradford, Dr. Lawrence Bradford (William Powell) asks his ex-wife, the rich mystery writer Paula (Jean Arthur), “What is a cocktail dress?” She replies, “Something to spill cocktails on.” So strike a pose, raise a glass and make a toast with these classic cocktails from Hollywood’s Golden Age. Spilling on cocktail dresses not required.


Casablanca (1942)

In this iconic World War II romance, which takes place in the Vichy-controlled Moroccan city of Casablanca, the routine of nightclub owner Rick (Humphrey Bogart) is complicated when his ex-lover Ilsa (Ingrid Bergman) and her Czech resistance leader husband Victor (Paul Henreid) enter his “gin joint,” Rick’s Cafe. In one scene, Rick’s jilted girlfriend Yvonne and her Nazi suitor order French 75s, named after the 75-millimeter field artillery gun (aka, the “Soixante-Quinze,” French for “75”), which was used by the French Army during World War I.


French 75

2 ounces London dry gin

1 tablespoon lemon juice

5 ounces chilled Brut champagne or dry sparkling wine

1 teaspoon superfine sugar or 1

1/2 oz lemon juice

lemon rind


 Put ice, gin, lemon juice and sugar in a shaker. Shake well. Strain over ice in a Collins glass (or no ice into a Champagne flute), top off with Champagne and garnish with lemon rind twist.

 “Here’s looking at you, kid.” -- Rick to Ilsa


It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)

 In this classic Christmas tale, a suicidal George Bailey (James Stewart) is visited by his guardian angel, Clarence Odbody (Henry Travers), who shows him why the movie has its title. In the bar scene, George orders a double Bourbon, while Clarence orders a mulled wine “heavy on the cinnamon and light on the cloves.”


Mulled wine

 1 bottle dry red wine

2 ounces port or brandy

6 whole cloves

1 orange, zested

cinnamon sticks or freshly ground nutmeg (optional)

 Combine ingredients in a large pot and bring to a simmer. Do not boil. Stir occasionally over low heat for 20-25 minutes. Transfer to heat-resistant bowl and ladle into mugs. Garnish with cinnamon sticks or freshly ground nutmeg.

 “I was just thinking of a Flaming Rum Punch. No, it’s not called that and it’s not nearly cold enough anyway. Wait a minute, wait a minute, I got it. A mulled wine, heavy on the cinnamon and light on the cloves. There we go, off with you lad and look lively.” -- Clarence, ordering a drink at the bar

The Seven Year Itch (1955)

A faithful husband (Tom Ewell) is tempted by a beautiful neighbor (Marilyn Monroe) while his family is away in this hysterical romantic comedy directed by Billy Wilder.


Whiskey Sour

 2 ounces whiskey (Scotch, bourbon, Canadian whiskey or Irish whiskey)

juice of 1/2 lemon

1/2 teaspoon sugar

1 maraschino cherry

1/2 slice of lemon


 Put ice, whiskey, lemon juice and sugar in a lowball glass and stir. Add half-slice of lemon, top with cherry and serve.

 “I’m perfectly capable of fixing my own breakfast. As a matter of fact, I had two peanut butter sandwiches and two whiskey sours.” -- Richard Sherman (played by Tom Ewell)


The Thin Man (1934)

 A hard-drinking ex-detective Nick Charles (William Powell) and his heiress wife Nora (Myrna Loy) attempt to solve a murder mystery in this comedic caper. They drink knickerbockers and martinis to whet their unending stream of witty banter.



2 ounces rum

1/2 ounce raspberry syrup or Chambord

1/2 ounce orange curaçao

3/4 ounce lime juice

lime wedge


fresh raspberries, blackberries or blueberries (optional)

 Shake the rum, raspberry syrup, orange curaçao and lime juice with ice. Strain into a cocktail glass.

 “The important thing is the rhythm. Always have rhythm in your shaking. Now a Manhattan you shake to fox-trot time, a Bronx to two-step time, a dry martini you always shake to waltz time.” -- Nick Charles

Pot O’Gold (1941)

In this classic rom-com directed by George Marshall, a failed music shop owner Jimmy Haskell (James Stewart) befriends his uncle C.J. Haskell’s (Charles Winninger) enemies, a family who has a band, and falls in love with one of its members, Molly McCorkle (Paulette Godard). Hijinks ensue with some kooky musical numbers, including an unforgettable dinner scene where the guests make music by rubbing the rims of their wine glasses.


Hot toddy

1 ounce whiskey (Scotch, bourbon, Canadian whiskey or Irish whiskey) or brandy

1 tablespoon honey

2 teaspoons lemon juice

3/4 glass of hot black tea

nutmeg, cinnamon or clove (optional)

 Fill up 3/4 of a highball glass with freshley brewed tea. Add whiskey, honey and lemon juice. Stir until honey is dissolved and serve. If you want a spicy touch, add some nutmeg, cinnamon or a clove.

 “I’m going to take a hot bath and a hot toddy.” -- C.J. Haskell


Topper (1937)

In this comedy directed by Norman McLeod, playful couple George and Marion Kerby (Cary Grant and Constance Bennett) decide to have some fun spooking their stuffy friend Cosmo Topper (Roland Young) after they realize they have died and are now ghosts. In one scene, Bennett gives Grant a frothy, pink-colored cocktail, saying, “Here, have a Pink Lady.”


Pink Lady

1 1/2 ounces gin

3/4 ounce applejack

1/4 ounce lemon juice

1-2 dashes grenadine

1 egg white

maraschino cherry


Put ice, gin, applejack, lemon juice, grenadine and egg white in a shaker and shake well, until frothy. Strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with cherry and serve.

 Marion Kerby: Let’s go have some dinner.

Cosmo Topper: Oh no, we cannot eat on an empty stomach!

Marion Kerby: Then we better have a few drinks first!

Philadelphia Story (1940)

In this classic directed by George Cukor, the wedding plans of socialite Tracy Lord (Katharine Hepburn) are complicated when her ex-husband C.K. Dexter Haven (Cary Grant) and tabloid journalist Macaulay Connor (James Stewart) suddenly show up. In one scene, Grant gives Hepburn a stinger, a classic New York City cocktail that is also featured in the 1957 film Kiss Them for Me and mentioned in the films The Apartment (1960) and Gorky Park (1983).



2 ounces brandy or cognac

3/4 ounce white crème de menthe

Pour ingredients in shaker and shake well. Strain into a cocktail glass and serve.

“I would sell my grandmother for a drink—and you know how I love my grandmother.” -- Macaulay Connor


The Big Sleep (1946)

 In this 1946 film noir based on a Raymond Chandler novel and directed by Howard Hawks, private eye Philip Marlow (Humphrey Bogart) is pulled into a web of intrigue by Vivian (Lauren Bacall), the daughter of a wealthy new client General Sternwood. In one scene, Vivian orders a Scotch Mist.


Scotch Mist

 2-3 ounces Scotch

1/2 cup crushed ice

lemon peel

 Pour Scotch over ice in lowball glass, twist lemon peel over drink to release lemon oil, drop peel in and serve.

 General Sternwood: How do you like your brandy, sir?

Philip Marlowe: In a glass.


State of The Union (1948)

 In this romantic drama, industrialist Grant Matthews (Spencer Tracy) begins a run for president, reuniting with his estranged wife Mary (Katharine Hepburn), who drinks a Sazerac, a drink mentioned several times throughout the film.



 3 ounces rye whiskey

3/4 ounce simple syrup

bitters to taste


lemon twist

 Muddle simple syrup and bitters in a glass. Add rye whiskey and ice. Stir.

Line a lowball glass with absinthe by pouring in a small amount, swirling it around and discarding. Alternately, line the rim of the glass with your finger dipped in absinthe. Strain the whiskey mixture into the lowball glass, garnish with lemon twist and serve.


“You politicians have stayed professionals only because the voters have remained amateurs.” -- Mary Matthews

Dr. No (1962)

After James Bond (Sean Connery) drinks two medium dry vodka martinis—shaken, not stirred (to make it extra cold), and garnished with lemon peel—the cocktail grew in popularity around the world. The famous “shaken, not stirred” line is actually first uttered onscreen by his nemesis Dr. No (Joseph Wiseman) in this, the first Bond film. Bond would first utter this line in 1964’s Goldfinger. Bond’s actual drink is the “Vesper Martini” (named after the Bond girl Vesper Lynd), the recipe of which is ordered by Bond in Ian Fleming’s 1953 novel Casino Royale, most recently in the 2006 film version starring Daniel Craig.


Vesper Martini

 3 ounces gin

1 ounces vodka

1/2 ounce Lillet Blanc wine

lemon twist


Put the ice, gin, vodka and Lillet blanc into a cocktail shaker. Shake well, then strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a twist of lemon and serve.

 Dr. No: Medium dry Martini, lemon peel, shaken not stirred.

James Bond: Vodka?

Dr. No: Of course.


Author Bio:

A former media executive with 15 years of experience in the private and nonprofit sectors, Reynard is a writer, editor, artist and the author of the blog 13.7 Billion Years, which covers cosmology, neuroscience, biodiversity, animal welfare, conservation and ethical consumption. He is also a staff writer for sustainable finance and corporate social responsibility (CSR) for Justmeans/3BL Media, an online news portal for the sustainable business industry. Reynard is the co-founder of MomenTech, an experimental production studio that coined the term Augenblicksmus to describe a creative philosophy based on the notion of the momentary to explore transnational progressivism, post-humanism, neo-nomadism and futurism.

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