10 Cocktails from Special Collections to Celebrate Graduation

In honor of the class of 2016’s graduation, we did some digging through a collection in Special Collections to find the perfect celebratory cocktails for our newest Hokie alumni. The collection we pulled from is part of a bartending manual from 1935 and a recipe book from 1944 from a Los Angeles-based bartending school. The drinks inside are timeless—and perfect for graduation parties.


So kick back, celebrate, and enjoy your new status as a Hokie alum!

A photo of the bar manual and recipe book.


1) Burgundy Punch


Throwing your own graduation party? Make it less stressful on yourself (after all, you just survived finals) and go with a punch so you can serve a crowd without much effort. This Burgundy Punch serves 14, and is sure to be a crowdpleaser.


Burgundy Punch (14 people). Large punch bowl. 2 quarts burgundy wine. 1 pint port wine. Half pint cherry brandy. Juice from 3 fresh lemons. Juice from 6 fresh oranges. Half pound bar sugar. 2 quarts carbonated water. Place large blocks of ice in bowl. Decorate with fresh fruits.


2) Champagne Cocktail


What celebration is complete without champagne? Even if you’re going with André, the champagne of choice for us college students, this drink looks fancy. It even contains Angostura Bitters, a necessity for any bartender, so might as well get that professional bar cart started now that you’re becoming a real adult.


Champagne Cocktail (Build). Saucer type champagne glass. 1 cube of sugar. 1 dash Angostura Bitters. Twist and drop lemon peel. Fill with champagne. Note: If splits are used set bottle on bar.

This drink calls for a lemon peel, and believe it or not, there is a right way to make one, according to the bartending guide.


About Twisting a Lemon Peel: When a lemon peel is properly twisted over the top of a drink, an atom of oil will drop and float on the surface of the drink giving forth a faint delicate aroma. If this peel is dropped into the mixing glass to be stirred or shaken the object of its use is lost. So we have the following rule: Never drop a lemon peel into a drink that you are going to mix, or shake. Squeeze it over the top after the drink has been strained into the glass it is to be served in. A lemon peel may be squeezed and dropped into any drink that is built in the glass it is to be served in, as an Old Fashioned, etc.


3) Champagne Punch


If you’re feeling especially generous, you can try a champagne punch for 12. As an added bonus, there are plenty of other tasty ingredients in this punch to fancy it up if you’re still using André.


Champagne Punch (12 people). Large Punch Bowl. Half pound bar sugar. 2 quarts champagne. 1 quart sparkling water. 1 jigger apricot brandy. 1 jigger maraschino brandy. 1 jigger Curacao. Stir well. Add large block ice and garnish with fruit of season.


4) Cuba Libre


With a name so smooth, you already know the drink is good.


Cuba Libre (Build). Shell glass, 10 ounce. Squeeze and drop half lime. Fill with ice. 1 jigger cuban rum. Fill with Coca Cola. Stir. Serve with straws.


5) Dr. Funk


Graduation is a good excuse to try drinks with strange names. Give this Dr. Funk recipe a go if you’re a fan of fruity drinks and gin.


Dr. Funk (Build). Collins Glass two-thirds full. Fine Ice. Squeeze and drop half lime. 1 jigger lemon juice. Half jigger grenadine. Half jigger maraschino. 1 jigger gin. Stir. Fill with Seltzer. Serve with straws.


6) Honolulu Fizz


There’s not much to this drink, which is good. Less ingredients means less time behind the bar and more time celebrating with your friends and family.


Honolulu Fizz (Shake). Stem glass, 6 ounce (chill). Mixing glass, fine ice. 1 dash grenadine. 1 jigger pineapple juice. 1 jigger gin. Shake well and strain. Fill with Seltzer.


7) Perfect Cocktail


Really, the name says it all. This one also calls for a lemon peel, so see the peel instructions found with the Champagne Cocktail (#2).


Perfect Cocktail (Stir). Cocktail Glass (Chill). Mixing Glass, 2 cubes ice. Half jigger dry vermouth. Half jigger sweet vermouth. 1 jigger gin. Stir well and strain. Twist and drop lemon peel.


8) Southern Cooler


Simple but refreshing—exactly what you’ll want after sitting in the sun for a couple of hours in Lane Stadium.


Southern Cooler (Build). Highball glass. 2 cubes ice. 1 jigger Southern Comfort Whiskey. Fill with Coca Cola or Seven Up.


9) Waikiki Cocktail


You just made your way through college, so you’re probably feeling on top of the world right now. If you’re feeling extra brave though, you can try a splash of egg white in this drink. It’s a little different than your average TOTS rail, but now’s the time to live large.


Waikiki Cocktail (Shake). Champagne Glass (Chill). Mixing glass, fine ice. Juice of half lime. Half jigger passion fruit juice. 1 jigger Bacardi rum. White of 1 egg. Shake extra well and strain.


10) Tequila Sour (Tropical)


Finally, for our tenth drink, a tiki. Tiki drinks saw their rise in the 40s and 50s, but this bartending recipe book was far ahead of its time. So far ahead, in fact, they had explicit instructions in the manual not to let these recipes out.


The bartending manual reads: "Your attention is called to the fact that very few bartenders in Los Angeles know these Tropical Drinks. If you let some one copy these drinks from your book you are just creating unnecessary competition to yourself in this new field. Use Common Sense."

If the drinks were so good their ingredients had to be safeguarded, it’s probably fair to say this will be a drink worthy of toasting to your graduation.


Tequila Sour (Shake). Whiskey Sour glass. 1 ounce S.S. 1 jigger lemon juice. 1 jigger tequila. Float Burks Rum on top.


Bonus: Lemonade


You might want a something sweet, minus the alcohol. You can’t go wrong with some old fashioned lemonade. Plus, the homemade stuff is always much better than anything in stores—so worth the added effort.


Lemonade (Shake). Collins glass, three-fourths full fine ice. Mixing glass, fine ice. 3 jiggers lemon juice. Mixing spoon twice full bar sugar. Shake and strain. Fill with cold Seltzer. Decorate with thin slices lemon. Serve with straws.


If you’re a fan of this collection, you can stop by Special Collections to see more. Located on the first floor of Newman Library, Special Collections has 16 collections related to cocktail history—and at least 100 books about the topic.


Our featured collection here, however, is the only one that has unpublished bartending manuals, so it’s kind of a big deal—sort of like our Hokie grads.


Congratulations to the Class of 2016!


Please enjoy and celebrate responsibly.


Written by Erica Corder, a senior majoring in political science and English in the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences, and a graduate of the Class of 2016.