poker-mixesWhile it’s true that wine, beer and whiskey were largely consumed in most Western saloons, many also offered fancy mixed drinks. They were quite popular in the wealthier communities, like San Francisco, Denver and Dodge City.

Now that you’re probably all psyched up for a hand of poker, why not mix it up 1800s’ style with these popular drinks that were served in the Wild West, taken from Harry Johnson’s Bartenders’ Manual, 1882.

Whiskey Cocktail

34 glass of shaved ice

1 or 2 dashes Curacao

2 or 3 dashed of gum syrup*

1 jigger whiskey

1-12 or 2 dashes of bitters

Stir up well with a spoon and strain it in a cocktail glass, putting in a cherry or a medium-sized olive. Then squeeze a piece of lemon peel on the top and serve.  This drink is without a doubt one of the most popular American drinks in existence.

*You can substitute sugar syrup, which is equal parts water and sugar heated together until clear.

Mint Julep

12 c. sugar


12 c. water

fresh mint leaves

crushed ice

Cook the sugar and water in a saucepan over medium heat until the sugar has completely dissolved. Place several mint leaves in an unbreakable container, and pour the sugar syrup over the leaves.  Refrigerate for at least four hours.

Fill tumbler glasses with crushed ice.  Add three parts of sugar water to one part bourbon. If this is too sweet for one’s taste, adjust the proportions of sugar water and bourbon. A little water can also be added. Garnish with a sprig of fresh mint. Makes about two drinks.

Gin Sling

1 tsp. sugar, dissolved in water

1 jigger of Holland gin


Place ingredients in the glass and fill the balance with water. Stir with a spoon, grate a little nutmeg on top and serve. Add a slice of lemon if the customer desires it.

Gin Toddy

12 tsp. sugar, dissolved in water

1 or 2 lumps of crushed ice

1 jigger of Holland gin

Stir well and serve. The proper way to serve this drink is to dissolve the sugar with a little water, put the spoon and ice into the glass and hand out the bottle of liquor to the customer to help himself.

Whiskey Punch

Juice of 12 lemon

2 oz. whiskey

1 tsp. sugar

1 dash brandy

Shake all ingredients together. Strain into a glass or goblet that has been filled with shaved or crushed ice. Garnish with fruit.

Claret Sangaree

1-12 oz. claret

1 tsp. powdered sugar

1 T. brandy

Shake the claret and sugar well with cracked ice and strain into a three-ounce cocktail glass. Leave enough room in the glass to float the brandy on top.


34 glass of shaved ice

2 or 3 dashes of gum syrup

1-12 to 2 dashes of bitters

1 or 2 dashes of curacao

1 jigger of apple jack

Stir up well with a spoon and strain into a cocktail glass. Put in a cherry or medium-sized olive; squeeze a piece of lemon peel on top and serve.

Egg Nog

1 fresh egg

34 T. sugar

13 glass of ice

1 small jigger white rum

1 jigger brandy

Fill the glass with rich milk [half and half will work well]. Shake or stir with a spoon so the ingredients mix well together, and strain into a large bar glass. Grate a little nutmeg on top and serve. It is proper for the bartender to ask the customer what flavor he prefers, whether St. Croix or Jamaica rum. It is wise to be careful not to put too much ice into your mixing goblet, as by straining you may not be able to fill the glass properly, as it ought to be.

Tom and Jerry

1 egg, separated

powdered sugar

pinch baking soda

1 jigger rum

hot milk

12 oz. California brandy


Beat the egg yolk in one bowl and the white in another. Once they have been beaten separately, combine them together and add enough powdered sugar to make a stiff batter. Add the baking soda and rum, stirring gently. Add a little more sugar to stiffen the batter again.

Dissolve one tablespoon of the batter in three tablespoons of hot milk and place in a hot mug. Add the rum and fill the mug with enough hot milk to come up one-quarter inch from the top. Top with brandy and a grating of nutmeg.

Stone Fence

1 jigger whiskey

2 or 3 lumps crushed ice

Fill the glass with cider [club soda can be substituted], stir up well and serve. As a rule, it is left for the customer to help himself to the whiskey if he so desires.

Beef Tea*

14 tsp. beef stock

Add the beef stock to the glass and fill with hot water. Mix with a spoon and hand it to the customer. Place pepper, salt and celery salt near the customer in case they require it. Add a small amount of sherry wine or brandy, for which there should be no extra charge.

*All the rage in the late 1880s


1-12 T. sugar

3 or 4 dashes lemon juice

34 glass filled with shaved ice

Fill the balance with water; shake or stir well; dress with fruit in season, in a tasteful manner, and serve with a straw. To make this drink pleasant, it must be at all times strong; therefore, take plenty of lemon juice and sugar.

Champagne Flip

1 fresh egg

12 T. sugar

12 glass shaved ice

1-12 jiggers champagne

Shake it well until it is thoroughly mixed, strain it into a fancy bar glass, grate a little nutmeg on top and serve. This is a very delicious drink, and it gives strength to delicate people.


Sherry Monahan is the author of The Wicked West: Boozers, Cruisers, Gamblers and More, which shares wild little pastimes, such as how to mix a mean whiskey cocktail and the rules for the high-rolling game of faro.

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