In the 1970s cocktails began to move from the staid and true to the colorful and strange. Sweet drinks became the rage, with most cocktails having a fruit and sugary component. Some classic cocktails still saw popularity during the Disco Era, although a few were re-imagined to suit the tastes of the day, such as the rising popularity of vodka and rum.
Invented in the early ’20s, the brandy Alexander saw a resurgence in popularity as other similar creamy drinks came on the scene. This brandy-based drink also features cognac, fresh cream and crème de cacao. The ever-popular Manhattan (a combination of whiskey, vermouth and bitters) and old Fashioned (sugar muddled with bitters and whiskey) didn’t change, while the martini got a disco update. The purist’s gin martini was replaced in popularity with the vodka martini. Even Ian Fleming changed up Bond’s classic order to include vodka in his later 1970s novels.
New in the 70s
Bizarrely-named and brightly-themed cocktails swept the scene in the 1970s, with bartenders seemingly one-upping each other on the amount of sugar, fruit and color a cocktail could contain. Invented during the Disco Era was the deceptively potent Long Island iced tea. Containing absolutely no tea, this drink, invented in 1972, combines gin, rum, tequila and vodka with triple sec, sour mix and cola. Other new cocktails emerging at the time include the sex on the beach, tequila sunrise and white Russian.
The Wild and Weird
Some strange concoctions are still widely enjoyed today, while others were simply too strange to survive. The kamikaze was a shooter made from equal parts lime juice, triple sec and vodka, and dates back to 1976. Perhaps the most memorable (but rarely ordered now) 1970s invention is the Harvey Wallbanger, appearing on the scene in 1971. This tall and luridly yellow cocktail includes the ubiquitous vodka, orange juice and Galliano, a sweet, herbal Italian liqueur.
Imports With a Splash
Some of the most popular drinks of the ’70s came from imports from island locales such as Hawaii, Fiji and the Caribbean. The pina colada claims its heritage from Puerto Rico and is popular still today. Made of several different fruit juices and rum, the Bahama Mama is sourced from the islands of the same name. These drinks evoked the bright and sugary sweet days of vacation and paradise for adults of the ’70s.
References and ResourcesIntoxicologist: 70s Cocktail Memories
GQ Magazine: Seven Retro Cocktails
World's Best Bars: Changing Tastes of the 70s and 80s
First We Feast: History of Shots
Forgotten Cocktails and Timeless Drinks; WT McCleat
The Official Website of the Long Island Iced Tea
Cruise Web: 11 Signature Drinks for the Caribbean Islands