1970s Cocktails & Disco Drinks

Words by Simon Difford

Photography by Dan Malpass

1970s Cocktails & Disco Drinks image 1

Iconic cocktails mark every decade as much as charting songs, fashion and design. People remember, or think they remember what they were drinking and these memories link to significant events in their lives. So, what were the big cocktails of the 1970s and are they worth revisiting today?

The Disco Era is said to have been "born on Valentine's Day 1970, when David Manusco opened The Loft in New York City, and it rapidly faded in 1980". With disco came flared trousers, Saturday Night Fever (released 23rd March 1978) and Disco Drinks - the sleazier the name the better. This was the decade when the relatively innocent-sounding Sloe Gin Fizz was combined with the Screwdriver to create the Slow Screw, which then inevitably became the Slow Comfortable Screw Up Against The Wall. All these drinks feature in the cocktail bible of that decade, Stan Jones' 1977 Jones' Complete Bar Guide. The double entendres continued through the 1970s and into the 80s to spawn a large Slow Screw family of cocktails.

The fondue set and the Hostess Trolley were at their height of popularity during the 1970s, as was the dinner party where they were shown off to the bell-bottom jeans and platform shoe clad neighbours. After dinner would come liqueurs - the likes of Drambuie, Grand Marnier and Bénédictine, poured at room temperature from cocktail cabinets or home bars into nifty little liqueur glasses. Galliano was the most popular liqueur in America during the decade and so had a dramatic influence on cocktail recipes of the time (like St-Germain in the last decade). The huge influence on cocktails during the 1970s was the start of vodka's ascendancy - an influence that would last through the next three decades.

Of course, cocktails which were popular during the seventies weren't necessarily created in the 1970s, in the same way that the Porn Star Martini, which has proved such a massive hit in the teenies, was created by Douglas Ankrah at the start of the previous decade (2002). Hence, below I've listed cocktails born during the 1970s (in bold) as well as older drinks that enjoyed a revival or their heyday during the seventies (click names for recipes).

Blue Hawaii - At the start of season six of the Mad Men television series, Don Draper is served a Blue Hawaiian, the most popular of the blue curaçao cocktails which emerged in the 1970s and grew in popularity during the 1980s. There is some confusion between a Blue Hawaii and a Blue Hawaiian - the Blue Hawaiian is blended with cream of coconut.

Brandy Alexander - originated in the 1930s.

Cuba Libra - originated 1900.

Godfather - The Godfather film was released in 1972 and by the time Jones' Complete Bar Guide was published in 1977, The Godfather Cocktail (with scotch) was joined by The Godmother (with vodka) and The Boss (with bourbon).

Golden Cadillac - Luxuriant and creamy this has two key ingredients for this decade: Galliano and orange juice.

Grey Hound to quote Jones "this is a Salty Dog with no salt - or a Tailless Dog."

Harvey Wallbanger - Created in 1952 by Donato "Duke" Antone and heavily advertised from 1973 onwards to promote sales of Galliano liqueur [Harvey Wallbanger history].

Merry Widow(er) - So popular was the Merry Widow that it evolved with different versions - Jones' Complete Bar Guide (1977) lists five variations including the Merry Widow Fizz.

Moscow Mule - the Moscow Mule was created 1941-46 but remained popular through the 1950s, 60s and 70s as vodka, the spirit on which it's based, grew in popularity.

Paradise Cocktail - another cocktail that proved so popular as to inspire numerous subtle variations: Paradise #2, and Paradise #3.

Piña Colada - The Piña Colada was created in 1952 (probably) but enjoyed its height of popularity during the 1970s and into the 1980s.

Pink Lady - named after a play of the same name in 1912, The Pink Lady enjoyed a revival in the mid-1940s and endured into the 1970s.

Pink Squirrel - probably created during and popular through the 1970s, the Pink Squirrel is now hard to replicate due to the scarcity of crème de noyeaux.

Salty Dog - References from the 1940s suggest that there was originally a gin based Salty Dog with lime juice and a teaspoon of salt, but the drink we recognise today with grapefruit and a salt rimmed glass came about thanks to the rise of vodka. (Without salt this becomes a Greyhound - see above.)

Singapore Sling - Although created sometime between 1899-1915, this fruity tall cocktail was made for the 1970s and 1980s [Singapore Sling history].

Sloe Gin Fizz - Sloe gin was a very popular liqueur during the 1970s, and indeed the earlier decades when this drink was created.

Slow Screw - Somebody, somewhere, sometime during the 1970s took the popular Screwdriver cocktail and swapped out the vodka for sloe gin. Little did they know that they'd started a family of Slow Screw cocktails.

Slow Comfortable Screw Against The Wall - See what he or she started.

Snowball - as a child of the 1960s this is the first cocktail I can remember - my father used to mix advocaat liqueur and lemonade for me and my sister while he made G&Ts for the adults. This Snowball made with advocaat is a drink that is quite specific to the UK and Jones' Complete Barguide published in Los Angeles, California in 1977 lists three different recipes for a Snowball but none of them contain advocaat.

Stinger - a drink that dates from the 1950s which enjoyed a resurgence during the 1970s. It's an after-dinner cocktail worthy of revisiting today.

Tequila Sunrise - orange juice was the most popular mixer during the 70s. Try this recipe - it's tasty!

Tom Collins - This drink from the early to mid-1800s [Tom Collins history] has proved enduring.

White Russian - probably created in the preceding decade, the White Russian became one of the biggest drinks of the 1970s. Like so many of the other drinks above, proof that it can take a decade or more for a cocktail to become popular.

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