Cocktails go back to the Roaring ’20s

By Jennifer Myers


 Dapper men. Flapper girls. The Jitterbug. The Charleston ~ life was a party and…ahh…the cocktails.

  The roaring 20’s was the golden era for perfectly crafted libations in America, right? Wrong. 

Life behind the closed door of the speakeasy has been portrayed, in hindsight, as romantic. But in reality it was a time of bathtub gin and watered-down rum; of drinking what you could get because you could get it.

  “During prohibition, the alcohol that was around was watered down or cut with other ingredients. That was when a lot of the drinks became too sweet,” says Kim Mello, the Beverage Manager at Moonstones in Chelmsford and creative genius behind the sophisticated cocktails served up at the Moonbar.

  “Today, the trend is toward making drinks the way they were intended to taste — before Prohibition.”

At Moonstones that means a lot of fresh citrus, a variety of bitters, a lot of infusions and aged spirits.

  On a recent visit to the Moonbar, Kim shook us up one of the their popular seasonal cocktails, the Gentleman’s Toast.

  The base for this smooth, intoxicating elixir is Jack Daniels’ Gentleman Jack Whiskey, which is a twice-charcoal filtered version of the classic Tennessee-born favorite.

  To the Jack, Kim adds the king of vermouth, Carpano Antica, the recipe for which was crafted in 1786 by Antonio Caprano, known as the “Godfather of Vermouth.” Next comes a dash of orange bitters, a staple in any serious bar; some fresh cranberry syrup concocted in the Moonstones kitchen; and a touch of spiced hibiscus liqueur. 

  She first stirs, then shakes the ingredients, succeeding in making an integrated potion.  Pouring the finished product into a martini glass, she gently rubs a crescent of orange peel along the rim.

  One sip. You have arrived . . . a destination better than Gatsby, in all his greatness, could imagine in his time of watered-down rum and bathtub gin. 

  Here on Route 110 in Chelmsford you’ll find barrel-aged Atlantico Reserva rum and Barr Hill gin, made in Vermont and finished with honey.

  And while Kim and Moonstones’ owner Scott Plath may not be manning a still hidden deep in the woods of Chelmsford (that we know of), they are mixing their own version of “moonshine.”

  Don’t worry, nothing illegal, just a clever play on words for the seasonal infusions that can be found behind the bar. Today it may be a pear and elderflower infused vodka; in the summer it may be a strawberry/kiwi/lychee infused spirit; and in the fall you’ll find vodka infused with real pumpkin pie filling.

  “I also love to infuse with teas,” Kim says. “We do an Earl Grey-infused gin that is really good.”

  The Tao and Zen cocktail is made with a house-made green tea liqueur, pomegranate and vodka.

  At the weekend brunch Bloody Mary bar, you can spice up the classic with a garlic/basil infused vodka.

  “We use fresh ingredients,” Kim explains. “The same way the chef gets to be creative and play with food, I get to play with alcohol.”

  So, belly up to the Moonbar, relax and take a trip back in time, a time before bottled lime juice and pre-packaged sour mix. Cheers.

Moonstones, 185 Chelmsford St., Chelmsford | 978-256-7777 | 


About The Author

Jennifer Myers

Jennifer Myers has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Boston University. A former reporter at The Sun newspaper for more than a decade, she later immersed herself in city politics as an aide to past Lowell Mayor Patrick Murphy. While working at City Hall, her Room 50 blog became one of the most popular news sources in Lowell. A history maven, Jennifer can usually be found combing through old newspaper clippings and documents at the Pollard Library or rummaging through cobwebbed attics, basements, historic places and forgotten spaces to uncover pieces of Lowell’s past. She is also the author of "There's a Lot to Like About...This Blog" at