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"Drinks in a western saloon?" Topic

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Personal logo Aurochs Supporting Member of TMP23 Oct 2012 8:00 a.m. PST

What drinks were served in a western saloon?
Only beer and whisky?

MajorB23 Oct 2012 8:21 a.m. PST

I'd have said only whiskey …

coryfromMissoula23 Oct 2012 8:27 a.m. PST

Depended very much on locale and time frame. Drinks had to be able to survive transportation and the primitive refrigeration, so access to railroads made a large difference.

I used to own an 1880s bar menu sign that had four or five beers listed, shots were "by the bottle" implying several hard liquors, shrub, cider, buttermilk, and a few more named drinks that aren't up to modern sensibilities name wise. This was for a bar, one of 24 in a mining town of 2000 or so people, that was fifteen or so miles from the railhead and had a cold cellar that probably stayed around 45 degrees year round.

Roderick Robertson Supporting Member of TMP Fezian23 Oct 2012 9:34 a.m. PST

Sasparilla, for the clean-cut hero to order.

Onomarchos Supporting Member of TMP23 Oct 2012 9:47 a.m. PST

From Wikipedia:


When a town was first founded, the initial saloons were often nothing more than tents or shacks that served homemade whiskey that included such ingredients as "raw alcohol, burnt sugar and chewing tobacco".


To stretch their profits, saloon owners would cut good whiskey with turpentine, ammonia, gun powder or cayenne. Their custom product was called by names like "Tanglefoot, Forty-Rod, Tarantula Juice, Taos Lightning, Red Eye, and Coffin Varnish." Other offerings included Cactus Wine, made from a mix of tequila and peyote tea, and Mule Skinner, made with whiskey and blackberry liquor. A saloon might also be known as a "watering trough, bughouse, shebang, cantina, grogshop, and gin mill".[1]

As towns grew, saloons were often elaborately decorated, featured Bohemian stemware, and oil paintings were hung from the wall. The hard liquor was improved, often featuring whiskey imported from the eastern United States and Europe. To avoid rotgut, patrons would request "fancy" mixed drinks. Some of the top ten drinks in 1881 included claret sangarees and champagne flips.


Beer was often served at room temperature since refrigeration was mostly unavailable. Adolphus Busch introducing refrigeration and pasteurization of beer in 1880 with his Budweiser brand.[1] Some saloons kept the beer in kegs stored on racks inside the saloon.[4] Some saloons made their own beer.

jpattern223 Oct 2012 10:43 a.m. PST

Following on from Cory's post, years ago I read that milk and buttermilk were popular in Western saloons.

skippy0001 Supporting Member of TMP23 Oct 2012 3:56 p.m. PST

Soylent Sarsparilla.

Coca Cola(with the original 'sugar') and rum. Which explains those Quenton Tarentino Asian Spaghetti westerns.

zippyfusenet Inactive Member23 Oct 2012 4:38 p.m. PST

Don't got no beer. All we got is tequila.

It's like beer.

bsrlee24 Oct 2012 2:28 a.m. PST

Champaign was surprisingly popular – it travelled well and was fancy enough for celebrations. Of course much of it would never have even seen a French flag, let alone France.

solosam Inactive Member24 Oct 2012 5:02 a.m. PST

Almost entirely homemade whiskey and warm beer. Any wines or champagnes would have to be imported over huge distances. Obviously, anyone near a railroad would have better selection, while frontier towns out in the sticks would be mostly moonshine.

I recently made a late period saloon and added an advertisement promising "Real Modern Refrigeration." Any early adoption of the first refrigeration systems would have been a major attraction.

-Solo Sam

Hamnottingham Inactive Member24 Oct 2012 10:00 a.m. PST

Beer should be served at room temperature or slightly below from a cool cellar.

(Puts on tin hat and ducks.)

Cincinnatus Inactive Member24 Oct 2012 7:39 p.m. PST

All this info is why I often wonder (on the morning after a night of drinking) how bad the hangovers must have been in the old West. I might be drinking cheap scotch but it's got to be better than that stuff.

rborges Inactive Member27 Oct 2012 6:14 a.m. PST

Knuckleduster has the Cowtown Creater Book that in Saloon section has lots of historicly accurate Drink options.

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