Traditions have long defined the customs of milestone holidays and that is no truer than with the sparkle and glamor that cements the welcoming of a new year. Despite moving us forward in time, the new year holiday seems to be forever entwined with the glitz of the Big Band era (roughly 1933–1945.) This could be attributed to the man monikered as Mr. New Years Eve, Guy Lombardo, who broadcast his Big Band orchestra during the exciting night for over half a century beginning in 1929!
To welcome in 2021, the Houston Symphony’s Bank of America POPS Series revisits an epoch of music that celebrated youth with energetic melodies, jaunty rhythms, and creative freedom of expression. Jazz vocalist Tony DeSare joins us for In the Mood: A Big Band New Year on January 8–10.
In preparation for the night of swing featuring classics by Glenn Miller and Duke Ellington, as well as Sinatra standards, we put together a collection of five cocktails that characterized the nightlife of the 1940s. We invite you to take a sip, close your eyes, and envision yourself “Stompin’” at the Savoy Ballroom in Harlem.
The Pink Lady
Popularized in the early 1930s at the Southern Yacht Club in New Orleans.
3.5 oz. of London Dry Gin
4 teaspoons Grenadine
1 egg white, room temperature
- Combine the gin and grenadine in a cocktail mixer filled with ice and shake vigorously.
- Pour the mixture into a glass and discard the ice.
- Add the egg white to the mixer and reintroduce the gin mixture, shaking until frothy.
- Pour into a chilled coupe glass and garnish with the lemon twist and cherry.
Featured as one of six cocktails published in The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks in 1948.
1.5 oz. of Cognac (Hennessey was a popular brand in the 1940s)
¾ oz. orange liqueur
¾ oz. fresh lemon juice
- Wet the edges of a chilled coupe glass with the lemon juice and rim with the sugar.
- Meanwhile, add the liquids to a cocktail mixer filled with ice and shake vigorously.
- Strain into the glass and garnish with the orange twist.
Although created much earlier, this cocktail featured a resurgence in the 1940s thanks to author Ernest Hemingway who declared it to be his favorite libation.
12 fresh mint leaves
½ lime, cut into wedges
2 tablespoons sugar
1.5 oz. white rum
½ cup club soda
- Muddle the mint leaves, lime, and sugar in the bottom of a highball glass.
- Leaving the contents at the bottom of the glass, fill with ice.
- Add the rum and club soda and stir to combine.
- Garnish with additional lime wedges and mint leaves.
Included in the influential 1930 Savoy Cocktail Book.
2 oz. Gin
½ oz. maraschino liqueur
¼ oz. crème de violette
¾ oz. fresh lemon juice
- Add the liquids to a cocktail mixer filled with ice and shake vigorously to combine.
- Strain into a chilled coupe glass and garnish with the cherry.
Shirley Temple (mocktail)
A non-alcoholic mixed drink named in the mid-1930s in honor of the child star.
¼ oz. Grenadine
3 oz. Ginger ale
3 oz. Sprite
- Pour the grenadine into the bottom of a high ball glass, then fill with ice.
- Combine the ginger ale and sprite and stir.
- Garnish with the cherry.
This homage to a bygone era, still very much alive in music, art, and even cocktails, is the perfect way to get “In the Mood” for the Houston Symphony’s presentation of A Big Band New Year on January 8–10. A livestream performance is also available on January 9.