At the beginning of the 1970s, cocktail drinks were made primarily with gin, rum, whiskey or scotch. “High balls,” a mixture of an alcoholic drink and nonalcoholic drink, were common. As the 1970s progressed, vodka became more popular and was used in the most popular cocktail drinks by the end of the decade. Drinks that were more complex and exotic than the basic high ball began to take hold of the 1970s cocktail culture.

High Balls

In the 1970s, the older, or more traditional, imbibers drank the classic high balls, which consisted of scotch and water, scotch and soda or scotch on the rocks. Whiskey might have substituted for scotch. Other drinkers may have appreciated high balls such as rum and coke, 7&7 (Seagrams 7 and 7 Up), vodka tonic, or gin and tonic. The hard-core purist relished a glass of scotch or whiskey served in a short glass poured over ice, which was called “on the rocks.”


The Manhattan, a classic cocktail made with whiskey, sweet vermouth, and bitters, remained popular in the 1970s. Business executives often downed another classic, the martini, in the 1970s. This was a time when a cocktail during business hours was still acceptable. Tom collins also remained a staple and bar tenders prepared liquid or frozen daiquiris in several flavors such as strawberry or banana.


Seemingly exotic cocktails pushed to the forefront of drinker’s minds in the mid to late 1970s. Tequila sunrises, Sloe Gin fizzes, Singapore slings, pink ladies, grasshoppers, and pink squirrels became popular, especially in the disco scene. The pina colada recipe traveled from Puerto Rico and found a home in the States, among drinkers seeking a cocktail that reminded them of exotic, far-away places.


Wine cocktails defined the light drinker who wanted a cocktail but not the alcoholic punch it packed. White wine was paired with club soda to make the wine spritzer. The wine cooler was invented in the 1970s, too. The first commercially packaged wine cooler was the “California Cooler”, but that didn’t emerge until 1981. In the 1970s, people would combine ingredients with wine, such as ginger ale and sugar or 7-Up and sugar to make their own rendition of the wine cooler. The more well-heeled drinkers enjoyed champagne cocktails.