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History on the Rocks

Cocktails have been a big part of the culture in the Pacific Northwest for over a century. Learn all about women in the Northwest and Prohibition at a lecture I will be co-presenting called “History on the Rocks – Women of Temperance and Tenacity” at The Museum of History and Industry (MOHAI) on Thursday, May 28th. This is in conjunction with the “American Spirits: The Rise and Fall of the Prohibition exhibit. For ticket information, visit

Seattle Daily News
But here is the fun part which I will include in my seminar at MOHAI: I used to live with a bootlegger! Yes – it’s true. In high school I lived with an older disabled lady; Helen Holt. She was a spicy lady with many a tale of fun and frolicking in her early years. In 1994 when I was writing a column for the Seattle PI on the return of the martini, I interviewed Helen about prohibition in Seattle here is an excerpt from the article:


The Return of the Martini, Seattle PI, December 1994 – By Kathy Casey

When I decided to do this column, I asked my friend Helen Holt, age 84, who coincidentally had her first “real” martini at the Mayflower Hotel, to share some of her memorable Northwest bootlegging stories. Helen to this day just about cringes at the smell of gin and that’s from an escapade of a little too much sampling from the tub with girlfriends. 

Helen told me how the bootlegged gin was made during Prohibition. “The boys would drive to California and pick up the drums of ethyl alcohol then strap them under the car and drive it back to Seattle. Then we would dilute it with water, mix it in the bathtub with some juniper berries and let the flavors mellow. If we made whiskey, we added a little Kitchen Bouquet.”

After the booze had “simmered” with its respective flavoring, it was siphoned into bottles and delivered. Helen, an order taker and delivery girl, would tuck a gallon under her coat and deliver it to one of the restaurants on Pike St. or jazz clubs on Jackson.

When I asked her about accompanying snacks, I was surprised to hear, “Everybody served up fried chicken or rabbit.” The menu played on that old tale of using grease to coat your stomach. Some people even downed swigs of olive oil before heading out for a night on the town. (Once I actually had a couple of swigs of a home-stilled brew–well, I wish I’d taken a swig of olive oil myself!)


So it’s always interesting to see how things come and go. And now all the old classics are back again. Bartenders and mixologists and home bar enthusiasts are on the search for forgotten recipes and everything Jerry Thomas.

A couple of my favorites follow. What’s old is new again. Enjoy – Kathy

Clover Club
Clover Club
The Clover Club cocktail, originally created for the gentlemen at the Philadelphia club of the same name, is a pre-Prohibition cocktail dating back to at least 1911.  Often made with grenadine, housemade raspberry syrup brings this cocktail back to its golden era roots. For a video of how to make the cocktail with a Liquid Kitchen twist check out www.LiquidKitchen.TV

Makes 1 cocktail

2 ounces gin
3/4 ounce fresh lemon juice
1/2 – 3/4 ounce Housemade Raspberry Syrup (recipe follows) – depending on sweetness preference
3/4 ounce pasteurized egg white or 1 small organic egg white
Garnish: raspberry on a pick

Bend and drop the thyme into a cocktail shaker. Measure in the gin, lemon juice, Housemade Raspberry Syrup and the egg white. Fill the shaker with ice. Shake vigorously for at least 20 seconds to froth the egg white. Strain into a large martini or coupe glass. Garnish 

Housemade Raspberry Syrup
Makes 2 cups

2 cups fresh raspberries
1 cup water
1 1/2 cups sugar

Place ingredients into a Vita Mix blender cup. Secure lid and process until smooth. Place pureed raspberry mixture into a small sauce pan. Bring to a boil over medium high heat, then reduce heat to a simmer. Let simmer for about 5 minutes. Strain cooked syrup through a fine mesh strainer. Let cool and refrigerate for up to 2 weeks.

Old Fashioned
Old Fashioned Whiskey Cocktail
The Old-Fashioned is considered the original cocktail.  For decades since its first mention in 1806, it was referred to as The Bittered Sling. It became known as the Old-Fashioned when, decades later, old-timers who tired of all the fancy drinks being invented began asking for a cocktail “in the Old-Fashioned way”. The name stuck.

As originally conceived, the Old-Fashioned was simply spirit, sweetener and bitters. This is simplicity at its best. During Prohibition, however, bartenders who lacked training began muddling cherries and orange slices to mask the inferior flavors of Prohibition-era spirits.  From there, the simple, uncomplicated Old-Fashioned became a complicated mess.

Makes 1 cocktail

2 oz Bourbon
1/4 oz Simple Syrup
2 dashes Angostura bitters or other bitters
Garnish: Wide orange disk, cherry on a pick

In a pint mixing glass, add spirit, syrup and bitters. Fill 3/4 full of ice and stir swiftly for 20 seconds. Strain over fresh ice in Old Fashioned glass. Squeeze disk over top of drink then drop in. Garnish.