How To Name Your Cocktail: 5 Tips For Creative Mixology

How-To Guides

Home bartender preparing a citrusy cocktail garnished with an orange wedge

Whether you're a professional mixologist on the clock at a ritzy restaurant or enjoy flexing your bartending skills for friends on your day off, creating new cocktail concoctions is fun.

Let's say you've finally found the perfect blend of ingredients for the ultimate adult beverage. Of course, you'll want to bestow a name that speaks to its distinctive character and taste. 

However, naming your cocktail shouldn't happen on the fly. Instead, it's essential to give it some real consideration. After all, you want your drink to attract the masses among the several thousand popular cocktails out there.

Mixologists take many approaches to name their cocktails. These five tips will help spark creativity to give your unique mix the best moniker.

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1. Pay Tribute to Your Cocktail's Birthplace

Vegas bomb shots

Nearly everyone has heard of a Manhattan – the infamously simple blend of whiskey, sweet vermouth, and bitters that surprisingly takes impressive skill to make.

The history behind the naming of Manhattan varies. One version takes place at New York's Manhattan Club in 1874 when Dr. Iain Marshall made it for Winston Churchill's mother, Lady Randolph Churchill. However, Lady Churchill was apparently in England at the time, giving birth to the iconic politician.

A more likely version of the story says William F. Mulhall, a bartender at the historic Hoffman House on Houston Street and Broadway, came up with the recipe in the 1860s. Regardless of its exact origin, the Manhattan is one of the most popular drinks over a century later and is nostalgic for a vibrant city.

Naming your cocktail after the city it was created is an excellent option. For example, the Boston Rum Punch, Baltimore Bracer, and Chicago Fizz pay homage to their birthplace and are easily recognizable.

You may also name it after the bar or restaurant you work at or include local lingo and landmarks native to your area.

2. Check Out Existing Menus

Cocktail menu on a surfboard

Existing beverages inspire numerous cocktail monikers, and other drink names may be variations of a classic. 

Maybe you've added an ingredient to a traditional Daiquiri or Mojito. Sure, it's been done before – Coconut Daiquiri, Hemingway Daiquiri, Strawberry Daiquiri, Pineapple Mango Daiquiri – but you never know when you'll come up with the next extraordinary twist.

If you're feeling stuck, checking out existing drink menus from restaurants and bars may be helpful. For example, is your cocktail reminiscent of a day at the beach? Look up oceanfront restaurants to see what they name their drink specials.

Naming your cocktail after something already out there isn't exactly cheating. Instead, it's a launch point to get your creative juices flowing.

3. Choose a Namesake

Beautiful woman sitting and holding a cocktail

Do you remember your grandparents being keen lovers of a timeless, Brandy Old Fashioned Sweet? It's a classic beverage that requires carefully proportioned ingredients to complement the bourbon.

Like all great cocktails, somebody may come along and make it even better. That person may be you – the genius behind a delicious variation bound to make people's taste buds tingle.

The perfect name for your spin on your grandfather's favorite drink may be right in front of you – his name. 

Of course, your cocktail's namesake doesn't have to be someone you know. You may choose a celebrity, leader, or author instead. In fact, many beverages have been named after someone famous, such as Ginger Rogers, Shirley Temple, and Charlie Chaplin. 

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4. Find Inspiration in Holidays and Events

Holiday cocktail with presents all around

The holidays are another source of name inspiration, from Peppermint and Gingerbread Martinis to Poinsettias. People look for any reason to celebrate a holiday with a cocktail in hand, so you'll find yourself with endless opportunities to pick a perfect name.

Some mixologists are inspired by historical events, too. For example, the French 75 was named for the French 75-millimeter light field gun – France's weapon of choice during World War I.

Otherwise, you might turn to current events. In recent years, various social and political movements and public figures have infiltrated our everyday lives. Even the coronavirus pandemic has served up cocktail inventions with several versions of the Quarantini. 

Of course, if you plan to name your cocktail after an occasion, make sure it doesn't draw offense. It's best to steer clear of adding humor to horrific bombings or other situations where people died (e.g., Irish Car Bomb). You might also want to avoid trends that people might soon forget. 

5. Have Fun with Pop Culture

Red, white, and blue cocktail drinks

Pop culture and its many forms deliver ample opportunities for naming your own cocktail. Art, music, movies, and books are great places to start the process.

For instance, the Harry Potter series has prompted numerous interpretations of Butterbeer, the Unicorn Blood cocktail, and the "Goblet of Fire" cocktail. 

Meanwhile, movie-themed cocktails have inspired other creative names, such as the tropical Blue Milk of Tattooine – perfect for Star Wars fanatics – and the Dowager Countess cocktail, inspired by Dame Maggie Smith's character in Downton Abbey.

You might also name your cocktail after a narrative, poem, or phrase. Look to Shakespeare's works or classic literature to spark creativity. These stories and authors have been known across the globe for generations, ensuring your concoction gains recognition for years to come.

Use wordplay and other literary devices to come up with clever names for your drinks. Puns are always a good way to get people to remember something. For example, instead of simply calling a vodka soda a "vodka soda," you could call it a "Sodavik."

A Creative Name for the Perfect Drink

Choosing a cocktail name that's creative and unique is only as good as the drink itself. Before you can name your new cocktail, you must perfect the ingredients. The combination of delicious flavor and a strong moniker will make your cocktail successful.

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