If you're into thinkin' and drinkin'

Episode 48: With Blinders On – The Blinker


When I first heard the name of this drink, I was puzzled how one could get a cocktail name from a car’s turn signal.  Of course, this is another case wherein the “old timey” speak means something totally different from what it means today. Back at the turn of the 20th century, when this drink became popular, blinkers were the blinders horses wore to keep them looking forward and it also was a slang term for black eye…both of which might be good ways to describe what the drink might do to you.

Below is the research Mr. Jason Kruse provided for the episode:

The recipe does show up in The Official Mixer’s Manual (1934)He is actually right about blinkers being another term for blinders. It could also mean: “A kind of spectacles for directing the sight in one direction only, so as to cure squinting, or for protecting the eyes from cold, dust.” Source: Oxford English Dictionary
During the late 1800s through the 1950s, blinker was slang for a black eye.
I can’t say for sure that this is what the name refers to. It could be in the vein of blinders or blinding you. Maybe it was because it would make you want to fight, ending up in a black eye.
Straub’s manual of mixed drinks (1913) has a recipe called a Grenadine Sour which has lemon juice, grenadine syrup, and Bourbon, a Whiskey Grenadine Fizz which is lemon juice, grenadine syrup, Rye or Bourbon,
Drinks with Rum, grapefruit juice, and grenadine show up in the recipe book: Along the wine trail: an anthology of wines and spirits (1935). One called the Boston Perfect made with New England rum and one called Robbie’s Birthday made with Cuban rum. I can’t find anything else that has these ingredients together.
I searched for grapefruit juice as an ingredient in a whole lot of cocktail books and doesn’t really show up before the 1910s as “grape fruit” and in very few places at that. It becomes more common in the 1930s. The Duffy book has several recipes that call for grapefruit juice. Along the wine trail (1935) has several, and another book called Wine manual; containing interesting information on selecting, storing and serving quality wines and spirits (1934). I found one mention in a book from 1906 of scooping out the pulp and using the peel for a bowl.
In 1920 the California Fruit Growers Exchange (later Sunkist) began an advertising campaign pushing the vitamins in juices. Florida growers also did this soon after, and “The sales of fruit juice increased threefold within two decades.” Source: Oxford Companion to American Food and Drink. 
“Fruit juices had never been particularly appreciated, at breakfast or any other time, but with the rising popularity of canning, the interest in healthful foods and in the newly discovered vitamins, and, strangely enough, the advent of Prohibition in 1920, canned fruit juice came to be considered an elegant addition to the breakfast table. One of the most common of the juices was grape, which was sold “as is” by desperate vineyards that could no longer sell wine. Sunsweet prune juice and tomato-based V8 both debuted in 1933, just as Prohibition was ending—but by then Americans had become used to drinking fruit juices at all times during the day as a substitute for alcoholic drinks. The crowning achievement, of course, in fruit juice history and perhaps a defining moment in the American breakfast came with the development of frozen orange juice after World War II.” Source: (2012). Breakfast Foods. In The Oxford Encyclopedia of Food and Drink in America. : Oxford University Press.
There were also exemptions under the Volstead Act for allowing home fermentation of fruit juices and private home consumption. This in combination with almost undrinkable prohibition liquor being masked by fruit juices, ginger beers, sodas, and tonics probably made fruit juices more common in cocktails.
Prior to prohibition it was more common to use freshly squeezed juice and fresh fruit. Perhaps canned fruit juice
Raspberry syrup does show up in cocktail and non-alcoholic drink recipes back to the 19th century, and it does seem pretty common. I seems unlikely that it was a substitute for grenadine, at least in 19th century American cocktails. I looked through 19th century recipe books and I don’t find anything that has grenadine in it until the late 1800s. This blogger, who has done an extensive amount of research on the history of grenadine (I am impressed with how much research he did), shows that grenadine doesn’t really show up in the books until 1895 in Modern American Drinks by George Kappeler but that it doesn’t really seem to take off until the 1910s and 1920s. I find both being used in the same recipe books.
European prohibition as far as I can tell is not really a thing. Some European countries enacted measures like rationing, or prohibiting distilled liquors, or high alcohol content, and a few did all out prohibition roughly the same time as the U.S. However, the same blogger found that Europe seemed to be leading the way in terms of grenadine drinks prior to the U.S. so it is again, raspberry syrup was probably not a substitute for grenadine.


A simple drink with few ingredients:

  • 2 oz. rye whiskey
  • 1/2 oz. fresh grapefruit juice (not pink)
  • 1 barspoon raspberry syrup

This drink was really quite pleasing; a fully blended cocktail wherein none of the flavors ran over the others and we found it to be fairly refreshing as well. This one was definitely a thumbs up.

I was a little surprised at how late grapefruit made it to the citrus party. I myself am not a huge fan of the fruit, but for sheer, plump, juicy mass, it’s hard to beat. Grapefruit made it to the U.S. in 1823 so there was plenty of time for Americans to get used to it and learn to appreciate it, but that didn’t actually happen until the 1940s. Even if Americans didn’t particularly enjoy it for a complete century that it graced our soil, I’m surprised it wasn’t just given to the poor and hungry like so many cans of beef-a-roni come food drive season.

All in all, despite being labeled a classic, the blinker is one of those cocktails our culture has nearly lost, which is sad because it is definitely one that shouldn’t be forgotten.

Transition music: Cephalopod by Kevin MacLeod
Closing Music: Blindness by Section 27 Netlabel

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