The EMD Guide to the 1950s: Drinks

1950s Drinks

Photographs via Stumpjack Coffee Co. and Vintage Ad Browser

If you're imagining smoky boardrooms filled with well-suited men drinking martinis and cheating on their wives, well, that's Mad Men, and that's the '60s, so you're gonna have to wait. The '50s were more about the post-WWII upheaval in culture and technology, and what America drank also reflected these shifts. Here are some of the drinks that were popular during the 1950s:

Thank God, the Tiki Bar Is Open

MrTiki2In the 1950s, the popularity of tiki culture skyrocketed after the return of American soldiers fighting in the South Pacific in WWII. With the popularity of movies like Elvis' Blue Hawaii and restaurants like Trader Vic's, people were really into tropical-themed drinks, such as the Piña Colada, Mai Tai and Zombie — basically anything served in a coconut shell with a ton of garnish.

Though the Piña Colada is said to have been invented in 1954 at a San Juan Hilton, references to a pineapple and coconut drink by the same name can be found as early as 1906. No matter its origins, someone decided to throw some rum in along the way, which paved the way for the best/worst song about cheating on your significant other ever. [Photograph via San Diego Travel Blog]

Another drink that gained popularity in the 1950s was the Grasshopper. Made with Creme de Menthe — a mint liqueur — Creme de Cacao and cream, it was the progenitor of green barf before anyone had ever thought to dye beer green for St. Patrick's Day.

Mabel for Carling Black Label Beer

By the 1950s, TV was changing everyone's lives, and many companies were entering new territory by sponsoring this nascent technology, including beer companies. In 1951, Blatz Beer was the sole sponsor of what was a huge event at the time — the Amos 'n' Andy Show's move from radio to television. Other beer companies soon followed suit and created ad campaigns to tout their product.

The most famous campaign of the time was Mabel, an interchangeable female spokesperson, touting Black Label beer. While Black Label beer doesn't exist in America anymore, Mabel became one of Television's first widely identifiable spokespeople, and the first one for a beer company.

Shaken, Not Stirred

In 1953, Ian Fleming created his most famous character, James Bond — the debonair spy who ordered his martinis "shaken, not stirred." Bond went on to become a series of movies that are still relevant today, and his special order has inspired many a drunken bar patron to utter that famous phrase while ordering martinis for decades since.

Primo_frontIn 1958, Primo brand beer from Hawaii started shipping its beer in the first aluminum cans to be produced in the U.S., as opposed to the traditional steel can, in order to save on costs. Unfortunately, this introduction was a resounding failure, but aluminum cans clearly caught on, eventually. [Photograph via]

Having risen in popularity during 1950s diner culture, a Black Cow is a cocktail which mimics the plain old root beer float; at some point an enterprising soul decided to make it with booze and thus worth drinking. Below is the recipe for the good kind. So crank up some Steely Dan, drink your big black cow and get outta here.

Black Cow Cocktail

  • 2 oz. Kahlua
  • 2 oz. Half and Half
  • 3 oz. Coca-Cola

Pour all ingredients over ice and stir lightly. Enjoy and repeat. [Recipe via Drinks Mixer.]

Rachael Oehring

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Comment Feed

  1. Paula Forbes

    "James is ordering a weak martini and being snooty about it." - Josiah Bartlett

  2. Moira

    I am really enjoying this series.

  3. Nate

    It's okay...I saved the Schlitz!

  4. Laura

    Black Label Beer does exist in America, or at least in Michigan and Ohio!

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