Downton Abbey Goes Clubbing: Jazz & Cocktails

Lady Rose-Downton-Abbey-jazz-band-leader-dance

Photo credit: Carnival Films & Television for MASTERPIECE

It’s the Roaring Twenties and Lady Rose is determined to break away from aristocratic stuffiness and go dancing to the latest music and tipple some hip 1920s cocktails. (Teenagers!)

Prohibition in America inspired bartenders (were they called mixologists back then?) to come up with some interesting creations to mask the taste of hastily made, illegal hooch (or so the story goes.) 

All the rage in American clubs and speakeasies, the cocktail culture infused the social lives of Brits across the pond and Europeans on the continent.


Photo credit: Carnival Films & Television for MASTERPIECE

Lord Grantham:  “Can I tempt you to one of these new cocktails?”

Dowager Countess:  “I don’t think so. They look too exciting for so early in the evening.”

According to Jared Brown, in his article “The Surprising History of the Cocktail,” American Bar nights were popular and hotels and restaurants in London caught on to the trend.  None were as influential as the one at The Savoy where a female bartender (yay 1920s feminism!) developed this cocktail: 

Hanky Panky

This classic cocktail recipe is credited to Ada Coleman, head bartender at the American Bar in The Savoy in 1925.

  • 1 1/2 oz. gin
  • 1 1/2 oz. sweet vermouth
  • 2 dashes Fernet Branca
  • Ice cubes
  • Garnish: orange twist

Stir ingredients well in a mixing glass and strain into a chilled glass. Twist a small swath of orange peel over the surface of the drink.

Adapted from Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails by Ted Haigh

Fernet Branca (which I had never heard of until researching vintage cocktails) is described as a bitter, astringent spirit from Italy – not one I’m keen on trying.

So in the spirit of Lady Rose, Lady Edith, Lady Mary, jazz, dancing, and breaking free of social norms, “Sex in the City-style,” I mixed up a very modern:

Blood Orange Cosmo

Cocktails 1920s

Photo credit: Rebecca Penovich



  • 6 parts vodka
  • 6 parts cranberry juice
  • 2 parts Triple Sec
  • 1 part blood orange juice
  • 1 part lime juice, fresh-squeezed

Fill a shaker with ice cubes.  Add all ingredients.  Shake and strain into cocktail glasses.

A very good libation to precede some ‘hanky panky’ even if the cocktail is not named that.

(Credit for cocktail recipe: Absolut Vodka).

Photo credit:

Shall we have Hanky Panky cocktails or champagne?
Photo credit: Nick Briggs for MASTERPIECE


For an excellent resource on vintage cocktails I recommend:

“The 1930 Savoy Cocktail Book



Tune in January 19, 2014 to your local PBS station for Episode 3, Season 4.