What were we drinking in 1935 and 1915

What were we drinking 1935 and 1915?

Continuing the countdown to the magna carta was signed I’m looking at 800 years of boozing. So What were we drinking in 1935 and 1915?

1935 The Bellini

Drunkenness of Noah bellini
Pissed up Noah by Bellini

When in 1931 Giuseppe Cipriani was given 50,000 lire ($25,000) for a drink he soon put it to good use and opened Harry’s Bar in Venice. The money was a thank you gift from Harry Pikering, a wealthy Bostonian, whom Giuseppe had loaned 10,000 lire to two years previously. Hence, Harry’s bar a place that was to be frequented by the likes of Hemmingway, Woody Allen, Charlie Chaplin, Orson Wells and my girlfriend.

It was here, at Harry’s bar, during a long drinking session with Harry Pikering that peach puree and Prosecco was first drunk. Of course if ever you drink a Bellini you’ll be struck just how much the colour looks like the pink/orange colours favoured by the renaissance artist Giovanni Bellini. Indeed, I think that Giuseppe was having a sly dig at the church with this drink as there is a painting called the drunkenness of Noah where a passed out Noah is barely wearing a Bellini coloured toga.

The Bellini

2 ripe peaches


Puree the peaches until smooth, best done in a blender if you have one. Spoon your mixture to fill a third of a champagne flute and top up with Prosecco.


If you were a German living in 1935 you may have been drinking Jagermeister as during this year if was first marketed to the German people. As with many digestives Jagermeister was initially invented as a health drink. It’s inventor Wilhlem Mast. Wilhelm reported that it helped digestion and could be used to treat coughs and colds. Some of it’s known herbal ingredients, such as ginger and chamomile do indeed aid digestion and the liquorice will help sort out a sore throat. Which means that next time you are downing Jager bombs at 4am wearing nothing but a sock you can be rest assured that you are being kind to your body.

1915 – French 75 Cocktail invented

It being wartime in Europe the French 75 cocktail has a wartime link, it is said it has such a kick it is like being shot by a French 75mm machine gun. Talking of big guns, two of the big guns in the cocktail world differ their opinion on the base spirit of a French 75. David Embury who wrote the seminal Fine art of Mixing drinks states Congac whilst the highly respected Savoy Cocktail book state gin. Both work in my opinion, so – Vive la différence.


1 part Lemon Juice
1 part Simple syrup
2 parts Gin or Congac
6 Parts Champagne
Lemon twist

Pour the Lemon Juice, simple Syrup and gin into an ice filled shaker, shake vigorously. Strain into a champagne flute and top up with Champagne. Garnish with a twist of Lemon.

Little or no booze in the UK

1915 was a crap year for booze jockeys, Russia had prohibited Vodka, Absinthe was banned in France and well-known kill joy and then prime minister David Lloyd George was waging war on booze in Britain.

DLG and co
David Lloyd George and his mates not talking as there isn’t any booze to get the conversation going

Prime minister David (it’s in the name you see), really was the Beeching of the pub, it was him that really started the rot of the boozer and not the smoking ban. Dave continued with a series of bitter blows to aimed at the pub and drinkers. Not content with sending off the men who drank in the pubs to their certain death he curtailed drinking hours, instead of pubs being allowed to open from 5am to Midnight they were only allowed to open for a maximum of 6 hours a day.

He continued his onslaught of fun, giving a speech in March 1915 stating, “We are fighting Germany, Austria and drink; and as far as I can see, the greatest of these deadly foes is drink”. On a propaganda war of his own he even convinced the King to give up the booze. It was a sad state of affairs pubs closing at 9pm in many places and people getting arrested for public drunkenness.

Prime minister party pooper David continued throughout the war and raised the tax on spirits, then in 1916 he made it illegal to buy your round. You were not even allowed to lend someone some money to get a beer in, run up a slate or pull a beer that was even a smidgen over a pint. If you did you’d be fined £100 (about £10,000/$15,000 in today’s money) and 6 months hard labour.

Perhaps Britain did have a drinking problem at the time which needed to be addressed. But the problems had more to do with condemning a generation to live with the horrors of war.