Alcohol in the Old West

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Alcohol in the Old West

We can be sure that any Siberian, Asian or European vessel of exploration/exploitation which visited the Western shores of American carried it’s own version/supply of alcohol. Those who came from the south or the east by land certainly would have had an adequate quantity of this traditional necessity in saddlebags, packs or wagons. Native Americans were already well versed in the Art before the coming of the invaders. Here, we take a short look at Alcohol in the Old West, starting in the early days; what was it, who made it, what did it cost, how did they get it, etc., etc…?

What is it?
Where did you go to drink?
In the vernacular…
Mixed Drinks of the Times
Quotes about Alcohol
further information related to Alcohol:


What is it?

Agave field in Mexico - DictionaryAgave – The cactus from which, tequila, mescal and pulque are made. Blue agave (Agave tequilana) for Tequila. Photo: U.S. PD 2008, by GFDL Wiki – A blue agave field in Mexico.  {001}



Ale – A type of beer brewed using a warm fermentation method, resulting in a sweet, full-bodied and fruity taste. Ales are usually made with top fermenting yeasts, beers with with bottom fermenting ones. Historically, the term referred to a drink brewed without hops, the bittering agent to balance the malt and act as a preservative was gruit, a mixture of herbs or spices boiled in the wort before fermentation. Today, hops has replaced gruit as the bittering agent in modern ales. Photo: U.S. Pd internet – glass of ale.  {001}
I suspect it was there, but I haven’t seen too much comment about ale in the Old West. I think beer took care of the need. – Doc

Ammonia – The occassional “additive”  to cheap whiskey in lesser establishment in the old west. Couldn’t have been too good…

ApplejackJohn Chapman, better known as Johnny Appleseed, (1774 – 1845) was a pioneer American nurseryman who introduced apple trees to large parts of Pennsylvania, Ontario, Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois, as well as the northern counties of present-day West Virginia. An American legend during his lifetime, due to his kind, generous ways, his leadership in conservation, and the symbolic importance he attributed to apples. Trees that Chapman planted had multiple purposes and they didn’t even yield edible fruit. The small, tart apples his orchards produced were useful primarily to make hard cider and applejack. Chapman planted strategically, for profit. He planted nurseries rather than orchards, built fences around them to protect them from livestock, left the nurseries in the care of a neighbor who sold trees on shares, and returned every year or two to tend the nursery. He left his sister an estate of over 1,200 acres of valuable nurseries.  Illustration U.S. PD 1871 Harper’s New Monthly Magazine – Johnny Appleseed.  {001}
see also:
Cider – below

aqua vitae – (Latin) literally, “water of life”) This name for the national/cultural/traditional alcoholic beverage appears in numerous languages and cultures in the world.  {001}
Native location: References – Dictionary

Beer – One of the oldest and most widely consumed alcoholic drinks in the world. The third most popular drink overall after water and tea. Brewed from cereal grains—most commonly from malted barley, although wheat, maize (corn), and rice are also used. During the brewing process, fermentation of the starch sugars in the wort produces ethanol and carbonation in the resulting beer. The alcohol content normally being under ten per-cent, but some modern processes yield as much as 55% alcohol. Due to the process, more likely properly classified as a spirit rather than beer. Beers are usually made with bottom fermenting yeasts. Beers such as Anheuser-Busch, Pabst and Schlitz all got their start around the Civil War and were on tap in larger cities in the west. Photo: U.S. PD internet – free.  {001}
Tended to arrive with settlers. So did the cats. – Doc

Bitters – Traditionally alcoholic preparations flavored with botanical matter, such that the end result is characterized by a bitter, sour, or bittersweet flavor. Many of the older brands were originally developed as patent medicines. Today, they are usually marketed as cocktail flavorings or perhaps digestives, sometimes with herbal properties. Most bitters contain both alcohol and water. The alcohol functioning as a solvent for botanical extracts as well as a preservative; alcoholic strength, varying widely across different brands and styles. Historically, the botanical ingredients used in preparing bitters have  consisted of aromatic herbs, bark, roots, and/or fruits for their flavor and medicinal properties. Some of the more common ingredients are cascarilla, cassia, cinchona bark, gentian and orange peel. Label – U.S, PD c. 1883.  {001}
see also:
The Originals Index – Medicinal PlantsPatent Medicine
Wk. 13, 04/01/1865 – Steamboat Bertrand
Native location: References – Dictionary

Bourbon – A type of American whiskey, made since the 18th century, distilled from corn and barrel-aged. While bourbon may be made anywhere in the United States, it is strongly associated with the American South, and with Kentucky in particular. The use of the term “bourbon” for the whiskey has been traced to the 1820s, and it came to be used consistently in Kentucky in the 1870s. One Elijah Craig, a Baptist minister and distiller is credited with having been the first to age the product in charred oak casks, the process which gives bourbon its distinctive taste and reddish color.
Although the name clearly derives from the French Bourbon dynasty, the U.S. inspiration for the name is unclear, contenders include: Bourbon Street in New Orleans and Bourbon County in Kentucky. The county was established 1785 and was called by most folks of the time, “Old Bourbon”. Early Bourbon County distiller Jacob Spears is said to have been the first to label his product “Bourbon whiskey”. Then too, located within “Old Bourbon” was the principal port on the Ohio River, Maysville, KY, from which whiskey and other products were shipped. “Old Bourbon” was stenciled on the barrels to indicate their port of origin. So, somehow, in time, bourbon became the name for any corn-based whiskey. Old Bourbon whiskey was different and it made an impression because it was the first corn whiskey most people had ever tasted. Photo: U.S. PD? ? – Larceny Bourbon.  {001}

Brandy – A spirituous liquor produced by distilling wine (usually from grapes). Some brandies are aged in wooden casks, others colored with caramel coloring to imitate the effect of aging, and some are produced using a combination of both aging and coloring.  In a broader sense, the term “brandy” also denotes liquors obtained from the distillation of pomace (yielding pomace brandy) or mash or wine of any other fruit (fruit brandy). These products are also called eau de vie (which translates to “water of life”). Brandy generally contains 35–60% alcohol by volume (70–120 US proof) and is typically drunk as an after-dinner digestif.
Initially wine was distilled as a preservation method and to make it easier for merchants to transport. Perhaps it was also a way to lessen the tax, which was assessed by volume. The original intent was to add the water removed by distillation back to the brandy shortly before consumption, but then it was discovered that after having been stored in wooden casks, the resulting product had improved over the original distilled spirit. Besides removing water, the distillation process led to the formation and decomposition of numerous aromatic compounds, fundamentally altering the composition of the distillate from its source. Non-volatile substance, such as pigments, sugars, and salts remained behind in the still, resulting in a distillate whose taste was often completely different from that of the original source. In the 1880’s, the French brandy industry was devastated by the phylloxera pest that ruined much of the grape crop; as a result, whisky became the primary liquor in many markets.
To test the purity of the rectified spirit of wine, a portion was ignited. If the entire contents were consumed by a fire without leaving any impurities behind, then the liquor was deemed good. A better test involved putting a little gunpowder in the bottom of the spirit. If the gunpowder could ignite after the spirit was consumed by fire, then the liquor was good. These procedures likely being the genesis of proof testing for all spirituous liquors. Photo: U.S. PD internet? – An old French brand.  [001]

Bumbo – A drink made from rum, water, sugar, and nutmeg. Cinnamon is sometimes substituted for or added to the nutmeg. Modern bumbo is often made with dark rum, citrus juice, grenadine, and nutmeg. A related drink is the Traitor, made with orange juice, rum, honey and nutmeg, mixed and heated. Bumbo was popular in the Caribbean during the era of piracy, largely because it tasted better than Royal Navy grog. Pirates and short-haul merchantmen did not suffer from scurvy as often as British sailors, largely because their voyages were shorter and their diet included plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables. This meant that citrus juice could be dropped from the grog recipe, and sugar and nutmeg sweetened the mix. Bumbo was commonly used during election campaigns in colonial British America, to the extent that treating voters to gifts and other freebies during election campaigns was referred to as “swilling the planters with bumbo.” George Washington was particularly noted for using this technique. His papers state that he used 160 gallons of rum to treat 391 voters to bumbo during campaigning for the Virginia House of Burgesses in July 1758.
I have never seen a mention of Bumbo, related to the Old West – Doc

Cider – An alcoholic beverage made from the fermented juice of apples. The juice of any variety of apple can be used to make cider, but cider apples are best. The addition of sugar or extra fruit before a second fermentation increases the ethanol content of the resulting beverage. Cider alcohol content varies from 1.2% to 12% and the sugar content is about 5–10 times the amount of sugar in lager or ale. Perry is a similar product to cider made from fermented pear juice. Common in the Old West.
– above
“Up until Prohibition, an apple grown in America was far less likely to be eaten than to wind up in a barrel of cider. In rural areas cider took the place of not only wine and beer but of coffee and tea, juice, and even water.”
Michael Pollan in The Botany of Desire.

Champagne – (Fr.) A sparkling wine, but not just any sparkling wine, it’s not the real thing unless it comes from the Champagne region in France and is produced under the rules of the appellation. Popular in the saloons and brothels in the old west, but who knows what of it was the real thing?

Denatured alcohol – aka: This chemical compound is ethanol that has additives to make it poisonous, bad-tasting, foul-smelling, or nauseating to discourage recreational consumption (sometimes dyed). Used as a solvent and as fuel for alcohol burners and camping stoves. Hundreds of additives and denaturing methods have been used because of the diversity of industrial uses. The traditional additive has been 10% methanol, giving rise to the term “methylated spirits”. Other typical additives include isopropyl alcohol, acetone, methyl ethyl ketone, methyl isobutyl ketone, and denatonium.  {001}

Ethanol – aka: alcohol, ethyl alcohol, grain alcohol, and drinking alcohol. A popular recreational drug, it is the alcohol found in alcoholic drinks. Ethanol is the only alcohol “safe” to ingest.* A simple alcohol with the chemical formula C2H5OH, volatile, flammable, a colorless liquid with a slight characteristic odor. A psychoactive substance,** it can be fatally toxic to humans, in a number of ways, when used in excess.
Ethanol is naturally produced by the fermentation of plant sugars (usually fruits or grains) by yeasts or via petrochemical processes. A vital substance, it is widely used by various industries for chemical testing, as a solvent, or in the synthesis of other organic compounds. Ethanol is a clean-burning fuel source of itself, an additive to gasoline and a rocket fuel. It has medical applications as an antiseptic, a disinfectant and a solvent.  {001}
see also:
*Denatured alcohol – above
*Isopropyl Alcohol – below
*Methanol – below
**The Originals Index – Resources and Hazards – Plants – Hallucinogenic Plants

GGill - copper measures - Dictionaryill – An archaic  unit of measurement for volume, equal to a quarter of a pint. Today, only used to measure the volume of alcoholic spirits, mostly in pubs in the United Kingdom. It was likely used in the U.S. colonies, on ships and may well have been used in the old west. In the U.S. a gill = four ounces (118 ml), 1/32 of a U.S. gallon. Photo: U.S. PD 20017 Joshknauer – These are English, copper gills, such as used in a pub. (Pronounced with a hard G, sounds like “Jill”, to me – Doc.)  {001}

Gin – Gin is one of the broadest categories of spirits, all of various origins, styles, and flavor profiles that use juniper berries (Juniperus communis) as a common ingredient. The name gin is a shortened form of the older English word genever, related to the French word genièvre and the Dutch word jenever.* All ultimately derive from juniperus, the Latin for juniper. From origins in the Middle Ages, the drink evolved from a herbal medicine to a popular liquor. By the mid 17th century, based on the older Dutch liquor, jenever, numerous small Dutch and Flemish distillers had popularized the re-distillation of malt spirit or malt wine with juniper, anise, caraway, coriander, etc., which were sold in pharmacies and used to treat such medical problems as kidney ailments, lumbago, stomach ailments, gallstones, and gout. Poster: U.S. PD internet?  {001}
Could be, I don’t know? – Doc
*Jenver – below

grog – Traditional drink of sailors – spirituous liquor (usually rum) cut with water. Named for English Admiral Edward Vernon (Old Grog) 1684 – 1757, who was noted for his wearing of a grogram* cloak in bad weather. He was the one who ordered the English sailors rum ration cut with water. No doubt an economical move as well as a practical one.  [001}
*A coarse fabric of mohair silk and wool.

growler – The can/jug that one brings to the saloon/bar to fill with beer to take home. The practice was more or less ended by bottled beer, but today, revived by the craft breweries.  {001}

Isopropyl alcohol – aka: isopropanol. The simplest secondary alcohol is a colorless, flammable chemical compound with a strong odor. The chemical formula is C3H8O. Used in the manufacture of a wide variety of industrial and household chemicals, and is a common ingredient in chemicals such as antiseptics, disinfectants and detergents. Isopropyl alcohol can have a toxic effect on  humans, poisoning can occur from ingestion, inhalation, or skin absorption. It is not a recreational drug.  {001}

Jenever – aka: (Dutch) genièvre, genever, peket, (English): Dutch gin or Hollands (archaic): Holland gin or Geneva gin). The juniper-flavored national and traditional liquor of the Netherlands and Belgium, from which gin evolved.
Gin – above

jigger – Two US fluid ounces (59 ml).

Mead – An alcoholic beverage created by fermenting honey with water, sometimes with various fruits, spices, grains, or hops.] The alcoholic content ranges from about 3.5% to more than 20%. The defining characteristic of mead is that the majority of the beverage’s fermentable sugar is derived from honey. It may be still, carbonated, or naturally sparkling; dry, semi-sweet, or sweet. An unlikely beverage in the Old West.

Mescal – 1. This is the the Mexican liquor with with the agave worm in the bottom of the bottle, not Tequila. 2. The agave plant.* Photo: U.S. PD internet? – mescal and worm.

Methanol – aka: methyl alcohol, wood alcohol, etc. The simplest alcohol, with the formula CH3OH, a light, volatile, colorless, flammable liquid with a distinctive odor similar to that of ethanol. However, methanol is far more toxic to humans than ethanol and extremely dangerous when ingested as an ethanol substitute. As little as 0.34 oz (10 mL) of pure methanol can cause permanent blindness by destruction of the optic nerve. One oz (30 mL) is potentially fatal. It is not a recreational drug.
Methanol acquired the name wood alcohol because it was once produced chiefly by the destructive distillation of wood. Today, methanol is mainly produced industrially by hydrogenation of carbon monoxide. It is used as a precursor to other commodity chemicals, including formaldehyde, acetic acid, methyl tert-butyl ether, as well as a host of other more specialized products.  {001}

Proof – Liquor: A measure of the alcohol (ethanol) content in an alcoholic beverage. In the U. S., alcohol proof is defined as twice the percentage of Alcohol by Volume (since 1848). Originally (in England), spirits were tested by soaking a pellet of gunpowder in a sample. Gunpowder wouldn’t burn in rum that contained less than 57.15% alcohol by volume. If the gunpowder would burn, those spirits were rated above proof and taxed at a higher rate. In the U.S, the term, “proof”, is still used in the liquor trade, but today, as noted above, it means twice the percentage of alcohol by volume in the product. 80 proof whiskey is 40% alcohol.  {001}
Native location: References – Dictionary
see also:
Brandy – above

Pulque – (Sp) A beer/wine, fermented from agave. Cloudy and whitish in appearance, about 6 percent alcohol, it has a sour buttermilk-like flavor. Made from fermented aguamiel (“honey water”), the sap of any of several species of the agave, or maguey, plant (often called century plant). Made in Mexico since the pre-Columbian times.  Photo: U.S. PD internet? – Agave & pulque.  {001}
*Dictionary – Agave

pulqueria – A establishment selling pulque.

Rum – A distilled alcoholic beverage made from sugarcane byproducts, such as molasses or honeys, or directly from sugarcane juice, by a process of fermentation and distillation. The distillate, a clear liquid, is then usually aged in oak barrels. The aqua vitae of the nautical world and not always available in the Old West.  {001}


Rush the Growler – Said of one who frequently fills his/her growler* at the local saloon/bar.  {001}
– above

Sarsaparilla1. A soft drink, originally made from the Smilax ornata plant.  2. Classic American sarsaparilla was not made from the extract of the sarsaparilla plant, a tropical vine distantly related to the lily. It was originally made from a blend of birch oil and sassafras. Sassafras was widely used as a home remedy in the 19th century. Taken in sufficient doses, it induces sweating, which some people thought had health benefits. Sarsaparilla apparently made its debut as a patent medicine, an easy-to-take form of sassafras, much as Coca-Cola* was first marketed in 1885 as a remedy for hangovers, headaches and morphine addiction. Besides the effects of the ingredients, sodas were popular in the United States at the time, due to the belief that carbonated water had health benefits.
Native location: References – Dictionary

Tequila – A Mexican liquor distilled from the blue agave cactus.* Traditionally produced in and around the city of Tequila in the highlands (Los Altos) of the central western Mexican state of Jalisco. Photo: U.S. PD internet?
Everywhere in the southwest. – Doc

Tiswin – aka: teshuino  1. An alcoholic beverage (beer/wine) brewed from Maize* (corn). Made by southwest Indians, the Apache, among others. A large quantity of shelled corn is soaked in a pot of water, then spread on a blanket until it sprouts.  Next, it is sun dried and ground on the metate. Water is heated in a pot on the fire and the corn meal stirred in. When the water is about half boiled away the pot is refilled, the liquid is then strained through cloth and allowed to cool. It is poured into a large pot where it stands until it sends up bubbles. Ready to drink when it stops bubbling. Some say, the lack of tiswin was one of the reasons Geronimo and others left the reservation in Oklahoma and attempted to return to the land of their ancestors. Photo: U.S. PD pre-1923 – pouring tiswin.
2. The Papago Indians (Tohono O’odham), ferment the bright red fruit of the world’s largest cactus, the saguaro,** to make a sacred wine they call tiswin (sometimes nawai), which is used in a ceremony to celebrate the beginning of their summer growing season and summon the vital rains for their crops.  {001} (from OWDR Dictionary)
*The Originals Index – Resources and Hazards – Plants – Food Plants – Maize
**The Originals Index – Resources and Hazards – Plants – Food Plants – Saguaro Cactus

Turpentine – Another possible, “not-so-good” additive to cheap whiskey.

Vodka – Polish/Russian in origin, a distilled beverage composed primarily of water and ethanol, but sometimes with traces of impurities and flavorings. Traditionally, made through the distillation of cereal grains or potatoes that have been fermented. People in the area of vodka’s probable origin have names for vodka with roots meaning “to burn”. Certainly available from the Russian Traders, up and down the Pacific coast.  {001}

Whiskey – A type of distilled alcoholic beverage made from fermented grain mash. Various grains (which may be malted) are used for different varieties, including barley, corn (maize), rye, and wheat. When the distillation process was still in its infancy; whisky was not allowed to age nor was it diluted and as a result it was raw and brutal compared to today’s versions which are  typically aged in wooden casks, usually made of charred white oak and diluted with water to a more palatable proportion. Over time whisky evolved into a much smoother drink.
In America, whisky was used as currency during the American Revolution; George Washington operated a large distillery at Mount Vernon. Given the distances and the primitive transportation network of colonial America, farmers often found it easier and more profitable to convert corn to whisky and transport it to market in that form.
The Old Bushmills Distillery in Northern Ireland is the oldest licensed whiskey distillery in the world (1608). Photo: U.S. PD? internet.  {001}
Started on this brand at age 14, I still like it 64+ years later! – Doc

Wine – An alcoholic beverage made from grapes, generally Vitis vinifera, fermented without the addition of sugars, acids, enzymes, water, or other nutrients. Different varieties of grapes and strains of yeasts produce different styles of wine. Yeast consumes the sugar in the grapes and converts it to ethanol and carbon dioxide. The variations result from the complex interactions between the biochemical development of the grape, the reactions involved in fermentation, the terroir, and the production process. Wines not made from grapes include dandelion wine, rice wines and fruit wines such as plum, cherry, pomegranate, elderberry and numerous others.
Wine has been produced for thousands of years. The earliest known traces of wine are from Georgia (c. 6000 BC), Iran (c. 5000 BC), and Sicily (c. 4000 BC) although there is evidence of a similar alcoholic beverage being consumed earlier in China (c. 7000 BC). The earliest known winery is the 6,100-year-old Areni-1 winery in Armenia.


1837 – The Rendezvous on the Green River at Horse Creek (to-be Wyoming) offered alcohol, imported from the East at $4 a pint. (see: The Originals Index – Trade in the Old West – Commerce in the Old West 1837)

1860-65Civil War times beer, 15 cents the glass. (re: Soldier’s Joy; see: The Originals Index – Trade in the Old West – Commerce in the Old West 1860-65)

1865 – Bitters, champagne, wine and barrels of bourbon (claimed: 5,000 gal.)
On the manifest of the Steamboat Bertrand, sunk in the Mississippi River. (see: Wk. 13, 04/01/1865)
(see also: Photo Gallery Index – Transportation PhotosSteamboats)

1879 – Canoncito, NM bartender Frank Page kills outlaw Samuel” Rattlesnake Sam” Johnson when he refuses to pay for his drink ($.25) but then discovers he will not be able to collect the offered reward.  {001}

1880’s – San Francisco Whiskey prices:
(see: The Originals Index – Trade in the Old West – Commerce in the Old West1880’s)

1880‘s – American brands included: Chicken Cock, Coronet,  Hermitage, Log Cabin,  Old Crow, Old Forrester, Old Overholt, Old Reserve and Thistle dew.
Imports of the time: Canadian Club, Dewar’s Scotch and Jameson Irish Whiskey.
(re: True West Magazine (08/2016))

1881 – Popular drinks of the time included: Stone Fence*, Tom and Jerry** and Whiskey Punch***.
(re: True West Magazine (08/2016))

1885 – New York City, NY notes the passing of the “The Father of American Mixology“; Jerry Thomas mixed his last “Blue Blazer” at 55 years. His early experience included working as a bartender, gold prospector and minstrel show manager during the California Gold Rush before returning east in 1851 to operate his first bar. However, he was soon on the road again, working as the head bartender at hotels and saloons in Charleston, SC; Chicago, IL; New Orleans, LA; San Francisco, CA and St. Louis, MO, for some years. Often wearing flashy jewelry and his bar tools and cups embellished with precious stones and metals, he was well known for his showmanship as a bartender. He developed spectacular and elaborate techniques of mixing cocktails, sometimes juggling bottles, cups and mixers in the process. His set of solid-silver bar tools accompanied his European tour. Later in life he owned and operated a succession of three other bars in New York City.
His 1862 drink book, the first published in the United States, Bar-Tender’s Guide (alternately titled How to Mix Drinks or The Bon-Vivant’s Companion) made his fortune and reputation. The book collected and codified what had been only an oral tradition of recipes from the early days of cocktails. It laid down the principles for formulating mixed drinks of all categories, including some of his own creations.  The first edition of the guide included the first written recipes of such cocktails as the Brandy Daisy, Fizz, Flip, Sour and variations of the earliest form of mixed drink, Punch. He would update it several times in his lifetime to include new drinks that he discovered or created. The 1876 edition included the first written recipe for the Tom Collins, which appeared just after The Tom Collins Hoax of 1874.*
Jerry Thomas mixes a Blue Blazer - Week 50Thomas developed his signature drink, the Blue Blazer, at the El Dorado gambling saloon in San Francisco. The drink is made by lighting whiskey afire and passing it back and forth between two mixing glasses, creating an arc of flame. Thomas continued to develop new drinks throughout his life. His mixing of the “Martinez”, which recipe was published in the 1887 edition of his guide, has sometimes been viewed as a precursor to the modern martini. Thomas claimed to have invented the Tom and Jerry**and did much to popularize it in the United States; however, the history of the drink in England predated his contribution. A very interesting fellow, look him up. TYH!  {001}

FYI: At the Occidental Hotel in San Francisco (c. early 1850’s), Thomas was earning $100 a week—more than the Vice President of the United States of the time! – Doc
See also
*Tom & Jerry – below

1886 – The “traditional” price for a bottle of cheap whiskey in a cowboy saloon was two bits (25 cents). (Kansas City Post Gazette, 03/03/1886 – p. 6.

Rye Whiskey
Oh, whisky, you villain,
You’ve been my downfall,
You’ve kicked me, you’ve cuffed me,
But I love you for all.
– anonymous – {029}

Where did you go to drink?

Often and usually, there were two kinds of saloons in a town. Most would be one-bit establishments with some range of quality in the various places charging these prices. This is how it worked. To pay at a one-bit saloon (i.e. 12 1/2 cents for a beer, a whiskey, or a cigar), one would pay with a quarter and then receive a “short bit” or a dime, which could then be used for the next drink. Eight drinks to the dollar.
Not everyone could choose to drink only with the “better” people in a community. Because the prices charged in two-bit saloons were twice as much as the others, (Four drinks to the dollar) most towns could only support a few. And, only a few could afford to drink in those establishments.
Truly low end, sleazy places charged five cents for a beer, a whiskey, or a cigar. Such establishments were relatively rare. You can be fairly certain that the whiskey was a tad watered down and the cigar might not be all tobacco. Maybe a bit bit more common in larger towns.
Then too, there were the various versions of “Parlors”.* They too, served plenty of alcohol to lubricate the fun and games played there.

*The Originals Index – Entertainment in the Old West – Brothels, Saloons, Dance Halls, Gambling.


In the vernacular…


Bang Juice                                           Nose Paint
Barley Corn                                         Old Lightning
Brave Maker                                       Old Pine Top
Bug Juice                                             Panther Piss
Coffin Varnish                                    Red Disturbance ?
Conversation Fluid                            Red Eye
Corn Squeezin’s                                  Rot Gut
Cowtown Neck Oil                             Ruckus Juice
Dead Eye                                             Scamper Juice
Drink Water                                        Skull Varnish
Far Water (Texan)                             Snake Water
Fire Water                                           Snake Poison
Forty Rod Lightning                         Sneaky Pete (a drink?)
Gut Warmer                                       Tongue Oil
Hootch                                                 Truth Syrup
Liquid TNT                                         Wild Mare Juice

Tequila and Mescal:

Cactus Juice
Taos Lightning
Trantula Juice

Out drinking…

hear the owl hoot…
on a toot…


Mixed Drinks of the Times…

Allston Cocktail
peppermint schnapps
lemon juice

Blue Blazer – see 1885 – Blue Blazer – above

B & S
Brandy and soda

Cactus Wine – A mix of tequila and peyote tea.

Gin Cocktail (c. 1862)
Use a small bar glass
3 or 4 dashes of gum syrup
2 dashes bitters – Bogart’s
1 wine glass of gin
1 or 2 dashes of Curaçao
1 small piece lemon peel
fill one third full of fine ice shake well and strain in a glass

Gin Sling                                           
1 1/2 oz. gin                                             In a cocktail shaker,. Shake, then strain over ice into a collins glass
1 oz. sweet vermouth                             Combine the gin, vermouth, lemon juice, simple syrup, bitters and ice
3/4 oz. fresh lemon juice                      Top with soda water
1 oz. simple syrup                                  Garnish with a lemon-peel spiral
1 dash Angostura bitters
Ice as needed
Soda water as needed
Lemon-peel spiral for garnish

Mint Julep
1 teaspoon Powdered sugar     Gently muddle the mint, sugar and water
2 oz. Bourbon whiskey             Fill the glass with cracked ice
2 teaspoons Water                    Add Bourbon and stir well until the glass is well frosted
4 Mint leaves                             Garnish with a mint sprig.

Stone Fence
6 oz. whiskey                       Pour the whiskey and ice into a whiskey glass
2 or 3 ice cubes                   fill to the top with cider
Cider                                     Stir well and serve…

Mule Skinner
Whiskey and blackberry liquor.

Old Fashioned (c.1895)
Dissolve a small lump of sugar with a little water in a whiskey-glass
two dashes Angostura bitters,
a small piece of ice, a piece of lemon-peel
one jigger whiskey
Mix with small bar-spoon and serve, leaving spoon in glass.

**Tom and Jerry (c. 1820’s)
A variant of eggnog, with brandy and rum added, served hot, usually in a bowl or mug.
Said to have been invented by British journalist Pierce Egan.

***Whiskey Punch

Fish House Punch (c. 1732 Philadelphia, PA) [modern version]
1 cup sugar
3½ cups water
1½ cups fresh lemon juice (6 to 8 lemons), strained
1 (750-ml) bottle Jamaican amber rum
12 US fl oz cognac
2 US fl oz peach brandy
Garnish with lemon slices

Stir together sugar and water in a large bowl or pot until sugar is dissolved. Add lemon juice, rum, cognac, and brandy and chill, covered, at least 3 hours. Put half-gallon ice block in a punch bowl and pour punch over it. Strong stuff! Normally diluted with cold black tea, or, today, with seltzer water.

grog – Traditional drink of sailors – spirituous liquor (usually rum) cut with water.
grog – above

I’ve had the yeller fever and been shot plum full of holes;
I’ve grabbed an army mule plum by the tail;
But I’ve never been so snortin’, really highfalutin’ mad
As when you up and hands me ginger ale.
– Anonymous – {029}

Quotes about Alcohol

These old time words of wisdom about alcohol are gleaned from Ken Alstad’s fine book
“Savy Sayin’s” (1986).

Whiskey makes a man see double and feel single.

Drunks sober up. Fools remain.

Sweat is a waste of whiskey.

It’s easier to stand the smell of liquor than to listen to it.

A man can easily brag himself out of a place at the bar.

The saloon keeper loves a drunk, but not as a son-in-law.

Shorty didn’t know whether to feed or starve his cold, so he drowned it.

Age gentles men and whiskey.

The town drunk has a lot of horse sense. You can lead him to water,
but he won’t drink it.

If it takes liquor to build your courage, you might have to prove it.

Tex has been crippled up with all the old cattleman’s ailments ever since he learned that Red Eye was a good painkiller for all the old cattlemen’s ailments.

Polishin’ your boots on a brass rail is dangerous to your health.

A man who hunts trouble in a saloon is apt to pass in his chips with sawdust in his beard.

A good drinkin’ buddy never heard that story before.

Southern Traditional

Dooley was a good old man
He lived below the mill.
Dooley had two daughters
And A Forty Gallon still.
One girl watched the boiler,
The other watched the spout,
Mama corks the bottles,
When old Dooley sets them out.

Recorded by Porter Wagoner


Further information related to Alcohol:
The Originals Index – Entertainment in the Old West
Brothels, Saloons, Dance Halls, Gambling

OWDR-barbed-wire-divider2End: Alcohol in the Old West

{001} C 12/19; E 05/19: F 02/16; P 02/18

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