Retro drinks are making a cool comeback this summer

Sip back in time with retro beverages that are making a splash this summer, from poolside classics to tropical cocktails. Photo credit: Depositphotos.

By Heidi Bruaw

Forget the frosé frenzy of last summer, this year it’s all about embracing the past. Retro drinks are being rediscovered from dusty recipe books and are making a refreshing comeback for the hottest months ahead.

Why the resurgence?

This year, people have been rediscovering their love for retro drinks. Nostalgia, social media and adventurous palates all contribute to the renewed interest in vintage summer drinks.


People are seeking familiar flavors and experiences from eras gone by. According to Bid Food, “57% of adults find the idea of nostalgic or retro-themed drinks appealing.” Because consumers are going through difficult times, the demand for nostalgic and comforting food and drinks is expected to grow. Flavors that remind people of their childhood are comforting.

Social media influence

Eye-catching visuals of classic drinks like chocolate milkshakes and vibrant cocktails like banana daiquiris on platforms like Instagram and TikTok are sparking interest. According to Appetite, “Social media may implicitly affect our eating behavior by communicating social norms.” The more people post appealing photos and videos of nostalgic summer drinks, the more consumers are likely to be interested in trying them. Licensed bartender, Michelle Price says, “There are many reasons why retro cocktails are gaining so much popularity lately. With all the changes in the world, it’s comforting to have a cocktail that brings back memories of ‘the good old days.’ Couple that with the younger drinkers who love to share their food and drinks on social media and try new flavors, retro drinks fit the bill on both counts. They have a great aesthetic and they aren’t the same-old same-old flavor profiles either.”

Adventurous palates

Millennials and Gen Z are interested in exploring new and unique flavor combinations using retro drinks like fresh squeezed lemonade. The Hartman Group’s research shows that more than 32% of Gen Zers surveyed said they love trying new types of cuisines and foods, while 39% say they prefer foods they’re familiar with. For millennials, retro drinks might bring back childhood memories. Retro drinks represent a past era that Gen Z can explore creatively and put their own twist on. Using vintage drinks as a base, both generations can add unique ingredients and flavors to create something new and adventurous.

How are they making a comeback?

Between high-end cocktail bars, home bartending and the resurgence of classic ingredients, nostalgic summer drinks are making a comeback. This trend is fueled by a desire for comforting flavors and a sense of nostalgia.

High-end cocktail bars

High-end cocktail bars are innovative while respecting tradition. According to The Tasting Alliance, “Through the application of scientific principles, bartenders manipulate textures and flavors, transforming familiar ingredients into unexpected forms – spherifications that burst in the mouth, foams that enhance aromatics, and gels that concentrate flavors.” Instead of mass-produced syrups and bitters, they are making their own using fresh ingredients like herbs and spices. They might make a rosemary-infused simple syrup for a fresh take on a mojito, for example.

Bars are also using modern techniques like liquid nitrogen to create new textures and presentations. A classic daiquiri might be transformed into a fluffy foam. They are taking inspiration from the classics and creating an updated drink with modern ingredients, techniques and presentations.

Home bartending

The rise of home entertaining and craft cocktail kits is making it easier for people to experiment with retro recipes at home. The Inspired Home Show reported in 2023 that 82% of consumers expect to entertain in their homes at the same or increased frequency in the next year. Craft cocktail kits include pre-measured ingredients and sometimes even include garnishes which makes it easier to create classic cocktails for guests without a well-stocked bar. Oftentimes the kits revolve around a specific theme like the Roaring Twenties or the Mad Men era, which allows people to experiment with retro recipes they may not have heard of before. Some kits include recipe cards with historical information about the drink, which allows people to appreciate the origin of these vintage drinks.

Resurgence of classic ingredients

Distillers are looking through archives and recipe books to recreate forgotten liquors. Some distilleries are also going back to older techniques to create that old-school taste. Instead of large-scale processes, they are using wood-fire stills, special regional grains or open fermentation vats to achieve a more historically accurate flavor profile.

Distilleries used to rely on local grains, fruits and herbs because it was what was available nearby. Some distillers are going back to that to add a unique twist and to help capture the essence of a particular place that may be associated with a certain liquor. According to Wine Enthusiast, “Some [distilleries] seek to spotlight homegrown flavors or the impact of terroir; others want to support local businesses; and still others just can’t resist experimenting with whatever materials are at hand, even recently emptied barrels.”

Other retro revivals

Cocktails aren’t the only vintage drinks making a comeback. Mocktails and other classic non-alcoholic drinks are also gaining popularity again, often with a modern twist.

Non-alcoholic drinks

Diner staples, such as the chocolate milkshake, are also becoming popular again with gourmet additions. Gourmet versions feature high-quality ice cream, decadent chocolate syrups and playful toppings. Fresh squeezed, homemade lemonade is also gaining popularity as people appreciate the simplicity and health benefits it provides. According to Credence Research, “the global market for lemonade drinks is expanding largely because of growing public awareness of the negative health impacts of chemically flavored beverages.”


Many people are focusing more on healthy lifestyles so mocktails are gaining popularity. Mocktails also allow everyone to participate in the social aspects of drinking together, whether they drink alcohol or not. More and more people are cutting back on alcohol or staying sober and mocktails offer a satisfying alternative. A 2021 NielsenIQ omnibus survey showed that “22% of consumers showed that they were cutting back on consuming alcohol and drinking less.” Classics like the Shirley Temple and the Roy Rogers are being requested more. Cocktails minus the alcohol like virgin pina coladas and strawberry daiquiri mocktails are also being asked for.

Final thoughts

Whether you’re seeking a taste of nostalgia ignited by social media trends or your adventurous palate craves a bygone era’s cocktails, this summer is the perfect time to raise a glass – or mocktail – to the resurgence of retro drinks, both at home and in high-end bars. These throwback beverages offer a delightful escape, transporting you to a different time and place with every delicious sip.

Heidi is also a vintage recipe blogger at Real Life of Lulu, where she focuses on recipes that are at least 50 years old, many from her grandparents’ kitchens.