Atomic (cocktail)

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Atomic Cocktail advertisement
The Flamingo Hotel
Mushroom cloud near Las Vegas

The Atomic cocktail is a champagne cocktail that was popularized by the Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce and casinos such as the Flamingo in the 1950s[1][2][3][4][5] during a period of time when Vegas was known as the "Atomic City"[6] and as a reaction to the popular culture[7][8] of the atomic age. The name may also be used generically to refer to one of many similarly themed cocktails dealing with atoms, nuclear fission, or rocket flights that were created around this same period.[9] Such cocktails were perhaps most famously served in the panoramic Sky Room of the Desert Inn, which had the highest view in the city at the time[10][11] and where people "drank like fish" and sang songs as they watched the bombs detonate.[12]

Atomic cocktail recipe[edit]

An Atomic cocktail recipe as described by noted cocktail historian David Wondrich[13] calls for equal parts vodka and brandy (or Cognac) that is either stirred or shaken with a small amount of sherry, then strained, and finally mixed with Brut (dry) champagne, frequently described as being garnished with an orange wedge.[14][15][16] A US Army information film from the era featured some versions that were actively bubbling,[17] likely the effect of dry ice.

"Atomic cocktails" as used generically[edit]

An "Atomic Reactor" cocktail

The atomic age, jet age and space age influenced popular culture in terms of architecture, furniture, fabrics, and style, and began to popularize many such themed cocktail names during these times.[18][19] In his book Atomic Cocktails, Gideon Bosker discusses the term and lists drink recipes inspired from this period with such names as the Rocket Man, Apricot Fission, and Cognac Zoom. Its Ray Gun cocktail calls for 2 oz. of green Chartreuse mixed with 1 oz. of blue Curaçao and ice, strained, and topped off with champagne. The Oppenheimer Martini is a recipe allegedly modified by the scientist when he was unable to sneak enough vermouth into top secret facilities.[20]

Sven Kirsten, who wrote The Book of Tiki, called tiki bars “the emotional bomb shelter of the Atomic Age.”[21] Jeff Berry in the Beachbum Berry Remixed drink guide noted that almost every tiki bar served cocktails with names like the Flying Saucer and Star Fire.[22][23] Some tiki drinks had names related to more basic aviation prior to this, such as Donn Beach's Q.B. Cooler and Test Pilot, and Trader Vic's two person PB2Y cocktail (named after the Navy's Coronado plane). Trader Vic's revised Bartender's Guide later listed newer Space Needle, Panoramic Punch and Milky Way cocktails.[24]

Potential name origins or influences[edit]

  • In nuclear medicine, an atomic cocktail is also used to describe a real-life radioactive mixture that is drunk by patients with hyperthyroidism and was discovered in 1941 through the work of Dr. Saul Hertz and others.[25]
  • The Atomic Cocktail song was released by Slim Gaillard in 1945 and included the following lyrics:[26][27]

"It’s the drink that you don’t pour, now when you take one sip you won’t need anymore
You’re small as a beetle or big as a whale, Boom! Atomic Cocktail"


Atomic Liquors is a historic bar in Las Vegas that sells Atomic cocktails.[28] Owners at the time Joe and Stella Sobchik renamed their bar Atomic Liquors in 1952.[29] The Aero Club Bar is a highly rated bar in San Diego.[30]

See also[edit]

Additional resources[edit]

  • Smithsonian video: How 1950s Las Vegas sold atomic bomb testing as tourism[31]
  • 1982 documentary "The Atomic Cafe" (Kino Lorber)[32][33]
  • Atomic Age Paintings at Chadron State College[34]


  1. ^ "Review of the Atomic Cafe". Retrieved 7 February 2019.
  2. ^ Lapis, Diane; Peck-Davis, Anne (2018-07-10). Cocktails Across America. ISBN 9781682681459. Retrieved 7 February 2019.
  3. ^ "Atomic tests were a tourist draw in 1950s Las Vegas". Retrieved 7 February 2019.
  4. ^ "Atomic Cocktail". Retrieved 7 February 2019.
  5. ^ "Atomic Cocktail". Retrieved 6 February 2019.
  6. ^ "Who Are You Miss Atomic Bomb". Retrieved 7 February 2019.
  7. ^ "The rise of nuclear fear how we learned". Retrieved 7 February 2019.
  8. ^ "Childhood memories spurred tiki". Retrieved 17 March 2019.
  9. ^ Bosker, Gideon (1998). Atomic Cocktails. San Francisco: Chronicle Books. p. 8.
  10. ^ "Who are you miss atomic bomb". Retrieved 25 February 2019.
  11. ^ "Las Vegas NV Atomic Testing Museum". Retrieved 25 February 2019.
  12. ^ Roger Morris, Sally Denton (2002). The Money and the Power. Random House.
  13. ^ "David Wondrich Thinks Cocktail Books Need a Makeover". Retrieved 12 February 2019.
  14. ^ "Atomic Cocktail". Retrieved 6 February 2019.
  15. ^ "Atomic Cocktail". Retrieved 6 February 2019.
  16. ^ "Atomic Cocktail". Retrieved 7 February 2019.
  17. ^ "Atomic Cocktail". Retrieved 7 February 2019.
  18. ^ Berry, Jeff (2010). Beachbum Berry Remixed. San Jose, California: Club Tiki Press. p. 30.
  19. ^ "Boozing with the bomb". Retrieved 7 February 2019.
  20. ^ "Oppenheimer, Martinis, and the Atom Bomb". Retrieved 7 February 2019.
  21. ^ "A new golden age for the tiki bar". Retrieved 22 February 2019.
  22. ^ Berry, Jeff (2010). Beachbum Berry Remixed. San Jose, California: Club Tiki Press. p. 30.
  23. ^ "Jet Aged Cocktails". Retrieved 13 February 2019.
  24. ^ Vic, Trader (1972). Trader Vic's Bartenders Guide, Revised. Garden City, NY: Double Day & Co. p. 183.
  25. ^ "nuclear-med-promo.pdf" (PDF). Retrieved 7 February 2019.
  26. ^ "Slim Gaillard - Atomic Cocktail (1945)". Retrieved 6 February 2019.
  27. ^ "Atomic Cocktail". Retrieved 6 February 2019.
  28. ^ "Atomic Liquors". Retrieved 7 February 2019.
  29. ^ "Atomic Cocktail- Las Vegas". Retrieved 12 February 2019.
  30. ^ "Essential San Diego Cocktail Bars". Retrieved 28 February 2019.
  31. ^ "How 1950s Las Vegas sold atomic bomb testing as tourism". / Retrieved 7 February 2019.
  32. ^ "Atomic Cafe". Retrieved 7 February 2019.
  33. ^ "1982 Atomic Cafe documentary restored". Retrieved 7 February 2019.
  34. ^ "Atomic Age Paintings". Retrieved 7 February 2019.