Lost Recipes of Prohibition: Notes from a Bootlegger’s Manual

Open Lost Recipes of Prohibition to any page and you'll be drawn into the mys­terious world of a long-vanished physician-turned-whiskey peddler and his illicit and even dangerous recipes. Matthew Rowley takes us through the handwritten notebook, exploring its historical context, elucidating its odd ingredients (talcum powder?), and even sampling the recipes. This is a must-have for anyone who enjoys a good cocktail—or the discovery of buried treasure.

 ~ AMY STEWART, author of The Drunken Botanist


Nobody is more familiar with the dark caverns of drinks history than Matthew Rowley, and Lost Recipes of Prohibition is an eye-opening exploration of the era, turning up many rich rewards.

 ~ PAUL CLARKE, author of The Cocktail Chronicles and editor of Imbibe magazine


Matthew Rowley found his way into Prohibition's crypt, returned with a notebook scrawled with crabbed hieroglyphics, and took the time to translate it for those curious about how one drank when one couldn't drink. Fascinating and revealing!

 ~ WAYNE CURTIS, author of And a Bottle of Rum


Few people on earth have the authority to unveil such a treasure trove as Matthew Rowley does. Immerse yourself in the epic journey of cocktail archaeology contained

within these pages.

~ JEFFREY MORGENTHALER, author of The Bar Book and Drinking Distilled


Rowley takes the gift of a mysterious notebook and runs with it, taking us along for an entertaining and fascinating ramble.

~ DAVE STOLTE, author of Home Bar Basics (and Not-So-Basics)


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Lost Recipes of Prohibition was a blast to research and write. When it come out, some (including Ari Shapiro at NPR) thought the book might be a hoax. It isn't . Here’s Ari and me talking about the book. Lost Recipes is a deep dive into the handwritten notebook of a German-born New York physician named Victor Lyon who, it seems, turned to bootlegging alcohol to make ends meet during Prohibition. From the 1920’s to the early 1930’s, Lyon kept a secret notebook with hundreds of recipes for liquors, cordials, tinctures, syrups, essences, bitters, and more. They are in German, English, Latin and the occasional mashup. Some are exactly the sort of sketchy, suspect booze you’d expect from Volstead-era bootleggers, complete with penciled-in costs for corks, bottles, and labels. Others, however, are elegant creations that predate the Jazz Age with lineages that reach back to the Renaissance, Middle Ages, and even ancient Roman medical texts. This book examines them all, gives historical context, and guidance for working with ingredients such as essential oils and neutral spirits. And if crafting your own ersatz whiskey or homemade gin isn’t in your stars, there are plenty of recipes for cocktails and cordials from modern bartenders.

Buy Lost Recipes of Prohibition from Kitchen Arts & Letters, Powell’s, Amazon, or your local bookseller.