The Golden Age of Cocktails

The 1920’s are widely considered to be The Golden Age of Cocktails. Due to Prohibition, which lasted from 1920 to 1933 and made the sale of alcoholic beverages illegal, most available spirits were manufactured illicitly and amateurishly, and as a result were of questionable quality. Thus, many bartenders came up with the idea of mixing these fluids with more palatable liquids in an attempt to create a drink that is both potent and potable. These beverages were served at establishments called speakeasies, and were often given original and whimsical names like The Hanky Panky, Satan’s Whiskers, and The Monkey Gland.

One particularly fashionable speakeasy in Chicago’s woodworking district, The Workbench, was noted for inventing cocktails named for woodworking tools such as the still popular Screwdriver (vodka and orange juice) and Gimlet (vodka or gin with lime juice), and the somewhat less popular C Clamp (whiskey and clam juice), Fretsaw (gin and chicken stock), Spokeshave (rum and varnish), Bark Spud (turpentine and vodka, garnished with a potato peel), and Chisel (vodka and shellac).

This establishment is also the first place known to use a jigger – a now common bartending tool used to measure liquor which is equal to 1.5 fluid ounces (about 44 ml) – whose name came from the Sharpening Jig, or "jigger," since it was said to be roughly equivalent to the amount of blood lost by someone who gets his finger caught in a such a device.


We here at Cycloped consider ourselves to be benevolent arbiters of knowledge, and though we primarily function as an encyclopedic addendum and correctum, we often find ourselves inundated with questions of a more definitional or dictionarial nature. Therefore, we have decided to address these desperate pleas and earnest appeals by occasionally presenting a list of words that have been sent to us, along with their accurate and incontrovertible definitions. The first such list is posted below; if you have also come across words whose common definitions strike you as wrongheaded, or terms that are not even broached by popular sources, please feel free to post them in the comments, and we will address them anon.

  • Ausgezeichnet – a fishing net designed to capture Ausgezeichs (a.k.a. “Austrian drowning fish”)
  • Barrister – a barbed banister
  • Benthos – the fifth musketeer
  • Cete – to give up one’s rights or position in exchange for all the tea in China
  • Distichous – a person with two moustaches
  • Exergue – a vestigial external tongue
  • Fraktur – a frankfurter for people opposed to fur
  • Gravid – covered in gravy
  • Hypocorism – a doctrine promoting the appointment of hippopotami to all senior governmental positions
  • Invidious – very insidious

  • Jacal – a French jackal
  • Kohl – half a kohlrabi
  • Legatee – a goatee grown on one’s leg, usually around the knee
  • Op/Ed – a transsexual talking horse
  • Quinate – to impregnate someone with quintuplets
  • Rebus – one of the founders of Rome
  • Suint – a suit made out of lint
  • Uxorious – ubiquitously luxurious
  • Valgus – contraction of “Vulgar Gus”, a derogatory term commonly used around Portland, Oregon
  • Witenagemot - a German thingamabob