When I think of the 1920s, I think of Gatsby, first and foremost and without fail. F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel, The Great Gatsby, is still iconic nearly a century after publication and seems to get more and more popular as it ages. However, let’s move past Gatsby and take a look into what really contributes to all the attention behind the 1920s. After all, any decade that claims to be roarin’ must be great, but what really made the 20s a monumental decade that’s still profound a century later?
The Roarin’ 20s was a time for change and people embraced the change that came. It was a change that made the decade roar with new morality, progress, and prosperity. Popular culture. Flappers. Jazz. A booming economy. Speakeasies. The United States was changing rapidly and it was an exciting time to be alive.
Popular culture stormed into daily lives. It was a spectacle. Driving was becoming more common and the Ford Model T was all the rage. Mass production and the booming economy gave people the independence they yearned for. Popular fads kept people entertained and flagpole sitting and barnstorming were among them. While flagpole sitting is quite literally in the name, barnstorming consisted of trained pilots performing stunts in airplanes. It also wasn’t until the 1920s that the idea of celebrity really came about. Famous filmmaker Charlie Chaplin, baseball legend Babe Ruth, and actress Gloria Swanson were among the first celebrities to gain fame. Criminals and gangsters gained their own level of celebrity after dipping their toes into the speakeasy business. They provided people a place to drink in secret after Prohibition was passed.
Women were no longer confined to a specific image. They embraced the short skirts and hair, smoked and drank, and didn’t care about how they were perceived. It was also a sexual awakening. Most importantly, for the first time, women were given the chance to be independent and free. Women broke past the cookie cutter expectations that were placed upon them and decided to lead different lives.
Jazz set the tone for the decade. Coined by F. Scott Fitzgerald as “The Jazz Age”, jazz had a major effect of the 20s. Jazz influenced everything from the culture to the dances to the fashion. It created a wild, carefree energy. Picture a flapper- jazz was playing in the background. Picture the gangster in a speakeasy- jazz was playing in the background. Picture prohibition and the rebellion that came with it- jazz was playing in the background. Jazz captured the Roarin’ 20s.
And we all know Prohibition. It almost sounds mythical in our minds. The American government decided to ban the sale and consumption of spirits as a sort of experiment to benefit the people and the country. It was meant to reduce crime and gang violence as well as improve the health of Americans. However, the result didn’t align with the motive. Instead, Prohibition had increased crime and birthed the idea of the speakeasy, a secret tavern where people could enjoy a drink away from authorities. The 1920s also gave Moonshine, a high-proof unaged whiskey, it’s rising popularity. Prohibition had failed.
The economy was booming. Let’s not talk about how the Great Depression, the worst economic downturn in American history, came after this booming economy… that would be a damper. Mass production and mass marketing propelled the economy forward with its contribution to consumerism. That along with the cheap credit and an overflow of employment and boom, you have a booming economy.
And there you have it. Those are a few of the factors that made the 20s roar, loud! Popular culture, the influence of jazz, the secrecy behind speakeasies, and the newfound freedom of women engulfed the decade and gave the 1920s a name that we still can’t forget, and rightfully so.
And speaking of speakeasies, here are some classic 1920s Prohibition Era cocktails that are still popular today
A popular drink in the 1920s and even today, the Old Fashioned is a timeless classic that belongs on any bar's menu.
Or you can try one of our pre-made Old Fashioned Cocktail Mixes.
This refreshing highball drink pre-dates the Roaring 20s but it was such a classic of that era that it still remains the official cocktail of Washington D.C.
- 2 ounces of gin
- 2 tablespoons of lime juice (about one lime)
- 4 ounces of club soda
- 1 lime wedge to garnish
One of the most iconic 1920s era cocktails, the sidecar is a must have at any modern speakeasy.
- 2 ounces Cognac (or Armagnac)
- 1 ounce Cointreau Orange Liqueur
- 3/4 ounce lemon juice
- Lemon twist or orange twist to garnish