The Prohibition-Era REVELATOR Cocktail

Rediscovered At Last!

THE REVELATOR! At one time those words con­jured more to the mind than just the nation’s pre­em­i­nent and trust­ed news mag­a­zine. To quote Ernest Hem­ing­way, in a let­ter to his edi­tor at the Toron­to Star news­pa­per: “Paris is a nice city, but no Rev­e­la­tors. If one can con­demn a city for its taste in cock­tails then Paris be damned. Gertrude says, ‘A rev­e­la­tor is a rev­e­la­tor is a rev­e­la­tor,’ but offers me rose­wa­ter.”

Yes, oh loy­al read­ers, the Rev­e­la­tor was once a cock­tail. It was nev­er the most pop­u­lar drink, although in its hey­day it achieved a rank­ing of num­ber 27 in a poll of Chica­go bar­tenders, bare­ly miss­ing the top 25 due to the tran­sient pop­u­lar­i­ty of the Yel­low Beet Express and the Tapi­o­ca Sun­rise. But the Rev­e­la­tor was cer­tain­ly the most dis­tin­guished of these cock­tails, being pre­ferred by artists, pick-pock­ets, and vice-pres­i­dents of mul­ti-nation­al min­ing cor­po­ra­tions.

Then came Pro­hi­bi­tion, and the hege­monis­tic con­trol of alco­hol dis­tri­b­u­tion and con­sump­tion by orga­nized crime. The Rev­e­la­tor as a drink declined in pop­u­lar­i­ty for the obvi­ous rea­sons and by 1933, with the repeal of Pro­hi­bi­tion, was all but for­got­ten. Cer­tain­ly the secrets of its con­coc­tion, at one time a close­ly guard­ed recipe, shared only with ini­ti­ates into the bloody Bar­tenders’ Cult of Agony, were lost in that final and igno­min­ious blaze that destroyed so many good men in so short a time.

Skip ahead four score years, and one of our interns is fil­ing a 1928 edi­tion of THE REVELATOR recov­ered from a Chica­go estate sale, when what should slip from its brit­tle pages but the fol­low­ing crum­pled slip of paper. At first glance, noth­ing more than a piece of com­ic call-and-response so pop­u­lar at the time. Thank­ful­ly, Lil­lie Elliot, a not­ed cryp­tomixol­o­gist then in res­i­dence at REVELATOR man­sion, was intrigued by the dis­tinc­tive aro­ma of whisky still adher­ing to the paper (sub­se­quent chem­i­cal analy­sis also revealed residues of blood, spit, and dog hair). It was Lil­lie who dis­cov­ered with­in its inane phrase­ol­o­gy the long-lost recipe to the Rev­e­la­tor cock­tail, that slip of paper being in fact the crib sheet by which its bar­er ordered the drink at their favorite speakeasy. It is with jus­ti­fi­able pride that we rein­tro­duce THE REVELATOR cock­tail to our dis­cern­ing and imbib­ing read­er­ship.


Front and back of the Revelator 'recipe'.

Front and back of the Revelator ‘recipe’.

A Tran­scrip­tion of the Orig­i­nal Instruc­tions

Q: Where have you been my well-wet­ted (1) young man on this droughty day?

A: I’ve been to Templeton’s farm to sleep in the rye (2).

Q: Who did you see there my well-wet­ted young man on this droughty day?

A: A Rev­e­la­tor (3) bap­tized me beneath the Rock Can­dy Crick (4).

Q: Who joined you there my well-wet­ted young man on this droughty day?

A. A ven­er­a­ble patri­ot jumped off his rock­er and punched me in the eye (5).

Q: Who else joined you there my well-wet­ted young man on this droughty day?

A. A Scots­man, no taller than my buck­le but he wore the smoke of a bat­tle­field with the pride befit­ting an immi­grant to our land (6).

Q: And did you see no-one else there my well-wet­ted young man on this droughty day?

A: I saw the sun sneak behind the barn wear­ing an old brown coat (7).

Q: Were there no ladies present there my well-wet­ted young man on this droughty day?

A: Aye, one, and she with gold­en hair and han­ker­ing for a kiss (8).

Q: Did you requite the lady’s pas­sion my well-wet­ted young man on this droughty day?

A: I kissed her twice and would have sam­pled more, but on the thrice she bit my lip. I dashed for the door and now fin­ished I be (9).


(1) drunk

(2) Templeton’s Rye was a Pro­hi­bi­tion-era whiskey from Iowa, said to be a favorite of Al Capone.

(3) The drink, not God’s spokesman, although some might call them one and the same.

(4) At big rock can­dy moun­tain, “lit­tle streams of alco­hol come bub­bling from the rocks,” so the young man was bap­tized in alco­hol.

(5) Anoth­er ref­er­ence to rye whisky, remind­ing us of its Amer­i­can his­to­ry and its strength.

(6) Ref­er­ence to a smoky scotch whisky, being present in half a pro­por­tion (“no taller than my buck­le”) to the rye whisky.

(7) A fair­ly com­mon ref­er­ence, at the time, to gin­ger.

(8) A lemon, since it makes your lips puck­er as if await­ing a kiss.

(9) Two dash­es of bit­ters.

Make your own REVELATOR


The ingredients!



One (1) oz straight rye whiskey.



One-half (1÷2) oz Scotch whisky.



Juice of one-half lemon.



One-half (1÷2) oz ginger syrup.



Two dashes of Angustora bitters.











The Ingre­di­ents (in short)

1 oz straight rye whiskey (Bulleit rye works well)

½ oz Scotch whisky (a good smoky scotch such as Laphroaig)

½ oz gin­ger syrup

juice of ½ lemon

2 dash­es of Angos­tu­ra bit­ters


Adden­dum: Recipe for Gin­ger syrup

Wash but do not peel the fresh gin­ger root. Rough­ly chop enough of gin­ger root so that you have 2 cups worth, then fine­ly chop this in a food proces­sor. Add 2 cups sug­ar and 6 cups water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and sim­mer uncov­ered for about one hour until the mix­ture is syrupy. Strain syrup through a sieve to remove the pieces of gin­ger. Refrig­er­ate the gin­ger syrup in a sealed jar or bot­tle. You will end up with about 2 12 cups of gin­ger syrup.

LillieElliotDrinkIngredientsCutoutPostLil­lie Elliot is a pho­to­jour­nal­ist, cry­tomixol­o­gist, and cock­tail enthu­si­ast liv­ing in Den­ver, Col­orado. When she’s not bar­tend­ing or tak­ing pic­tures, she’s prob­a­bly hik­ing, ski­ing, watch­ing live music or sip­ping on her lat­est cock­tail exper­i­ment. Lil­lie and THE REVELATOR extend our sin­cer­est thanks to The Crun­k­le­ton club of Chapel Hill, NC, for mak­ing avail­able their research facil­i­ties and premis­es for our res­ur­rec­tion of this clas­sic cock­tail.