Food History

The Waldorf Astoria’s Bar Manager Picks the Most Popular Cocktails By Decade

May 17, 2016

New York’s Waldorf Astoria Hotel—and its most iconic bar, Peacock Alley—has seen the ebbs and flows of tastes and trends, and withstood them by modernizing where needed, but mostly maintaining the storied allure and lore of yesteryear that makes “a classic” eternal. Peacock Alley’s bar manager Frank Caiafa spent over 3 years researching the hotel’s cocktail program—and cocktails in general—to revise the Waldorf Astoria’s bar book that was last published in 1934.

The revised book has over 1,000 recipes: what was hot in the 1930s, to now. Surely a lot has changed since Prohibition—tastes have fluctuated, ingredients have come and gone—but the story is what you know: Everything old is new again.

Here are the most popular drinks by decade, according to Peacock Alley’s bar manager Frank Caiafa:

1930s: Holdovers from Prohibition era—Orange Blossom, Bee's Knees, Champagne Cocktail, and French 75

"These recipes hid the less-than-stellar base spirit or avoided it completely."

1940s: Bloody Mary and Mai Tai

"New favorites that happened to become classics."

1950s: Grasshopper and Brandy Alexander

"Now drinks were trending sweeter."

More: The history of the Brandy Alexander.

1960s: Whiskey Sour and Highballs (scotch and soda, gin and tonic)

"After the sweet, drinks trended simpler."

1970s: Piña Colada, Frozen Daiquiri, and other fun group drinks made by batch

1980s: Vodka enhanced with liqueurs and or juices

"Think Blue Whales, Lemon Drops, Red Devils, Alabama Slammers."

1990s: Everything from the 80's, plus Long Island Iced Tea

"Oh boy!"

2000s: Cosmopolitan and Mojito

2010s: Anything brown and stirred

"Everything old is new again."

Tell us: What's your spirit cocktail decade?

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  • Trina
  • kumalavula
Editor/writer/stylist. Author of I Dream of Dinner (so You Don't Have To). Last name rhymes with bagel.


Trina May 18, 2016
The French 75 is a very tasty and refreshingly crisp, yet very potent drink and is one of my favorites. It will sneak up on you, so proceed with caution! Lol!
kumalavula May 17, 2016
i really liked reading through this historical retrospective of our society's leanings with respect to alcohol.