How about a genuine Art Deco cocktail recipe to cheer up a very unusual New Years eve?! Lucy Jane Santos has very kindly provided details on how to mix a classic and explains the back story behind its creation.  


40 ml dry gin

20 ml Lillet Blanc

20 ml crème de cacao

20 ml fresh lemon juice


Cocktail shaker


How to make this cocktail

All ingredients to cocktail shaker, fill completely with ice and shake vigorously. Strain into glass. Garnish with a lemon twist.

The Back Story

Despite being named after a North American train (more on that later) this drink was actually created in London by the bartender Charles A Tuck. The recipe for the Twentieth Century first appears in the 1937 Café Royale Cocktail Book published by the UK Bartenders Guild.

The cocktail was named to commemorate the Twentieth Century Limited – a train line that ran between Grand Central Terminal in New York City and LaSalle Street in Chicago. Although the line had been around since 1902 by the 1930s it had come to be firmly associated with the glamour of travel – servicing a rich clientele of wealthy businesspeople, Hollywood stars and royalty.

By 1936 it was time for an upgrade for the rolling stock and the industrial design pioneer Henry Dreyfuss was hired. Working in collaboration with the Pullman Company and New York Central Engineers Dreyfuss redesigned both the interior and exterior of a new train embracing Art Deco styling.

The exterior of the train was created with a streamlined appearance and a cyclops eye spotlight. Matching the exterior paint, the interior was decorated in blues and greys with accents of rust colour.

The best bit of the redesign, in my opinion at least, came in the form of the dining cars. Not only does the interior decoration look amazing but the attention to detail from Drefuss in the conceptualisation of the more ephemeral objects such as the menus which, in 1939 at least, featured an engraving of the exterior of the train on the rust coloured cover.

Surviving menus also give us a delicious example of what food was being served: containing offerings of caviar, filet mignon and lobster. In 1939 the price for dinner was $1.75 although the filet mignon cost an extra 60 cents.

After several further redesigns of the rolling stock (in particular when diesel locomotives were introduced in the late 1940s) and a period of decline – as aeroplane travel increased in popularity and frequency – the Century made its final run on 2 December 1967.

It may have been the end of an iconic era but, thanks to Charles A Tuck, we are left with a delicious cocktail named in its honour.

Lucy Jane Santos is a writer with a particular interest in the science behind the history of cosmetics. Her first book Half Lives: The Unlikely History of Radium (Icon Books, 2020) examined the fascinating, curious and sometimes macabre story of the highly desirable element taking readers on an enjoyable journey into the odd areas where science and consumerism touch.

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