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Jamaica Ginger, Swank Cocktail #46

🏠 » Cocktails » Swank Cocktail Guide: 80 cocktails in 80 days

Jamaica Ginger cocktail
Jamaica Ginger cocktail

The Jamaica Ginger is cocktail number 46 on the Swank Cocktail Guide.

Jamaica Ginger cocktail history

Jamaica Ginger, or “Jake,” has quite a storied past.

Jamaica Ginger began being sold in drug stores around 1860 for medicinal purposes and was touted as “a delicious, refreshing wholesome safe remedy for ailments peculiar to summer, to change of food, water and climate.”

"St. Louis People Drinking Jamaica Ginger Cocktails," newspaper article, The Times-Picayune (New Orleans, Louisiana), 25 July 1878, p. 4, col. 1.
“St. Louis People Drinking Jamaica Ginger Cocktails,” newspaper article, The Times-Picayune (New Orleans, Louisiana), 25 July 1878, p. 4, col. 1.
"Jamaica Ginger," newspaper advertisement, The Boston Globe (Boston, Massachusetts), 12 Aug 1879, p. 1, col. 6.
“Jamaica Ginger,” newspaper advertisement, The Boston Globe (Boston, Massachusetts), 12 Aug 1879, p. 1, col. 6.
Jamaica Ginger signage
Jamaica Ginger signage
Jamaica Ginger bottle
Jamaica Ginger bottle

As Jamaica Ginger had a very high alcohol content, its popularity increased when Prohibition took effect in the 1920s. Per newspaper reports, the consequences of concoctions made with Jamaica Ginger ranged from drunkenness and addiction to paralysis and death.

"Jamaica Ginger an Intoxicating Beverage," newspaper article, The North Adams Evening Transcript (North Adams, Massachusetts), 12 July 1921, p. 3, col. 1.
“Jamaica Ginger an Intoxicating Beverage,” newspaper article, The North Adams Evening Transcript (North Adams, Massachusetts), 12 July 1921, p. 3, col. 1.
"Jamaica Ginger Cocktails Strong," newspaper article, The San Francisco Examiner (San Francisco, California), p. 5, col. 7.
“Jamaica Ginger Cocktails Strong,” newspaper article, The San Francisco Examiner (San Francisco, California), p. 5, col. 7.
"Jake Making 'Em Take Notice," newspaper article," The Slema Times-Journal (Selma, Alabama), 23 Mar 1930, p. 4, col. 1.
“Jake Making ‘Em Take Notice,” newspaper article,” The Selma Times-Journal (Selma, Alabama), 23 Mar 1930, p. 4, col. 1.

With such an unpleasant past, why would Jamaica Ginger be used to name a cocktail not containing any ginger (nor the original Jamaica Ginger), on the Swank Cocktail Guide, ca. 1950s? That is unknown. Jamaica Ginger’s mystery and scandal seemed to continue for some time after Prohibition. Numerous films, books, and songs since the late 1920s referenced “Jake” and its effects.

Jamaica Ginger cocktail recipe

Jamaica Ginger cocktail recipe
Jamaica Ginger cocktail recipe

2/3 Jamaica Rum, 1/3 Grenadine, 3 dashes each Maraschino and Curaçao, 1 dash Angostura Bitters. Shake well with ice. Strain into glass.

Ingredients used:

  • Appleton Estate Jamaican Rum
  • Rose’s Grenadine
  • Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur
  • Hiram Walker Blue Curaçao
  • Angostura Bitters

Jamaica Ginger cocktail review

Our ratings (1-5 🍸)

Greg: 🍸🍸🍸
Kim: 🍸🍸🍸

The Jamaica Ginger reminds me of a rum punch you are handed when walking into a party or dinner on Martinique or Guadeloupe – or one of the other islands where rum is produced. The punch is usually a little too sweet and has a bit too much rum. It’s drinkable, but then you go to the bar and order something you want.

Next up… Cocktail # 47, King Alphonse

Swank Cocktail Guide: 80 cocktails in 80 days

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