Lawbreaker Cocktail

In remembrance of the 55 mph speed limit

Your cocktail calendar entry for: January
No Comments

The Drunkard’s Almanac contains affiliate links and we may earn a small commission at no extra cost to you if you use those links to make a purchase.   Many thanks for supporting this website and helping us make the world a better place, one drink at a time.

For January 2 we’re mixing the Lawbreaker cocktail in honor of the day we all became lawbreakers.  It was the day in 1974 that President Richard Nixon signed the Emergency Highway Energy Conservation Act and lowered the speed limit on all roads to a maximum of 55 miles per hour.  It was a dire time for anyone hoping to reach their destination in a single lifetime, even if Sammy Hagar had a big hit with his song I can’t drive 55.

This resulted in nearly everyone becoming a lawbreaker, many holding close to the law only as a result of overzealous enforcement.  It took a long time to unwind the 55-mph restriction, with challenges to the law careening around until it was finally repealed in 1995.

 The 55 MPH Speed Limit

Prior to 1974 U.S. states set their own speed limits, which ranged from 40 to 80 mph.  This was all well and good when industrialized nations enjoyed easy access to cheap Middle Eastern oil.  But things changed dramatically in 1973 with the Arab-Israeli conflict.  Arab members of OPEC were not too keen on the West’s support of Israel in the Yom Kippur War and decided to stop oil shipments to the U.S., Japan and Western Europe.

This, of course, caused problems.  Europe and the U.S. both fell into recession.  The oil shortage led Nixon to propose a national 50 mph speed limit for cars and 55 mph for trucks and buses.  He somehow believed that cars were most efficient from 40-50 mph while trucks were so at 55 mph.  This idea of differential speed limits was opposed by the largest trucking association.  They pointedly advised that differential speed limits were “not wise from a safety standpoint.”

In any event, Nixon signed the Emergency Highway Energy Conservation Act on January 2 and states had to comply if they wanted federal money for highway construction and maintenance.

Compliance with the law by motorists was, shall we say, low.  In 1982 New York monitored their highways and noted 83% noncompliance.  Connecticut found 88% noncompliance.  And we haven’t even gotten to the longest, straightest, most boring two lane blacktop in the west.

Various states took the teeth out of the law.  Fines for noncompliance were reduced to trivial amounts.  By 1981 33 state legislatures debated ways around the law.  But it still took until December 1995 for Congress to lift federal speed limit controls.

So for 21 years, from 1974 to 1995 we were all lawbreakers.  Or at least those of us without blue hair and able to see over the steering wheel were.

The Lawbreaker Cocktail

The obvious choice for January 2 is the Lawbreaker because all but our youngest readers were.  The Lawbreaker cocktail recipe comes to us from the Charlotte Street Hotel in London but our crack research staff was unable to find attribution to a specific bartender.

The drink itself is quite similar to the Scofflaw cocktail, differing only in how the ingredients are proportioned.  This might lead you to the conclusion that grenadine-containing variations of the Whiskey Sour suggest drinks of criminal intent.  Our Editorial Board believes that is a reach too far, and take it only as a reminder that the Mr. Potato Head theory of mixology shows how a modified drink can take on a whole new identity.

As always, we suggest making your own grenadine, or at the very least buying one actually made from pomegranate juice.  If you see if on a store shelf, crystal clear and fluorescent red we advise backing away slowly.  Instructions are part of the recipe and shown below.

lawbreaker cocktail

Lawbreaker Cocktail

A Whiskey Sour variation that differs from the Scofflaw cocktail only in terms of how the ingredients are proportioned, the Lawbreaker is a good reason to make a batch of grenadine.
No ratings yet


  • oz Rye whiskey
  • oz Dry vermouth
  • ¾ oz Grenadine See note below
  • ½ oz Fresh lemon juice
  • Garnish: lemon twist


  • Add all ingredients to your trusty shaker.
  • Add ice and shake until frosty cold.
  • Strain into pre-chilled coupe glass.
  • Express lemon twist over drink and garnish.


To make Grenadine:
Add one cup sugar and one cup unsweetened pomegranate juice to a small saucepan.  Bring to a boil and boil until slightly thickened.  Add one teaspoon of lemon juice and a few drops of rose water if you have it. Bottle and keep in refrigerator.


Previous Post
Statesman Cocktail
Next Post
Alchemist Cocktail

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recipe Rating

Fill out this field
Fill out this field
Please enter a valid email address.
You need to agree with the terms to proceed

Browse by Category
May we also suggest