Chin-chin! its cocktail time.

Cocktail cabinet, veneer with cubistic marquetry design by P E Kafka, c1947 (Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences collection) on display in The Moderns. exhibition, Museum of Sydney, 2017. Photo © Nicholas Watt for Sydney Living Museums

This weekend is your last chance to see The Moderns exhibition at Museums of Sydney. We thought we’d celebrate its last huzzah! with a cocktail or two, inspired by the stunning Paul Kafka inlaid cabinet in the image above.

American cocktails such as ‘brandy smashers’, ‘sherry cobblers’ and ‘mint juleps’ were all the rage in Sydney society, after ice had suddenly became available in the mid-1800s, first imported form America (yes really!) and then after manufacturing began at local factories. Across the Pacific in America, cocktails enjoyed a sudden resurgence in popularity after prohibition laws were relaxed in 1933. The trend appears to have taken a hiatus during the Second World War, but the spate of post war Hollywood movies cemented them in popular culture, as the sophisticated and ‘edgy’ beverage option in the 1950s and 60s.

Mid-century glassware on display in a Paul Kafka cocktail cabinet (MAAS) at The Moderns exhibition, Museum of Sydney. Photo © Nicholas Watt for Sydney Living Museums

1940s cocktails

A strong American influence is evident in an illustrated cocktails feature in Sydney’s Sun newspaper from 1949, with twenty-seven summer drinks including the Manhattan, Side Car, Tom Collins, Gin Rickey and a Daiquiri. Sadly the feature pages are in black and white rather than colour, but the images give an indication of the drink-ware and garnishes that were in vogue at the time, and are consistent with the mid-century glassware on display in the cocktail cabinet in The Moderns exhibition, shown above.

Timeless tastes

Many of these classic cocktails are still popular today, as the cocktail menu at The Governor’s Table at the Museum of Sydney indicates. It doesn’t appear to a have a ‘Horse’s Neck’, however… and (thankfully) not a tiny parasol or plastic flamingo stirrer in site!  ‘Chin chin!’