Contraband Cocktails: How America Drank When It Wasn’t Suppose To

At 150 pages this book isn’t a big time commitment and will provided insights into some of the classic cocktails drunk during Prohibition. I really enjoyed the denotation of drinks that you might not want to try anymore, such as the Main Street Punch, that were still included for “historic or literary reasons.” If you’re looking to learn more about the drinking history in Prohibition, inclusions like these are what you’re after.

The first 50 or 60 pages are dedicated to the some of the history surrounding Prohibition and how cocktails became a distinctly American creation. The majority of the book then dives into the recipes, but doesn’t stop at just how to prepare the drink. Dickson also includes a “Cultural Context” sections for all but a couple drinks, exploring topics like the significance of the drink, how the drink got it’s name, where the drink has been referenced in pop culture, etc. The recipes and their accompanying history are as smooth a read as the rest of the book, and Dickson’s style is both engaging and informative.

The final section, entitled “Glossary of Volstead English”, looks at both popular and more obscure terminology used during the Prohibition Era. While not strictly applicable to the history of any one cocktail, this does provide an interesting insight into the verbiage of the time.


If you’re looking to learn a bit more about Prohibition cocktails and a few pieces of history surrounding it, Contraband Cocktails is a great place to start. I wouldn’t say that this is a compressive book by any means, but I recommend this as an introduction to learning more about the history of Prohibition drinking and culture.

Check it out here.