The Secret Origins of Your Favorite Cocktails



Cocktails tend to have ridiculous names. The more intriguing they are the more it sticks with the consuming public. Some of the more ridiculous ones seem to sell sex, like Sex on the Beach, Redheaded Slut, and Buttery Nipple. The classic ones, like the Bloody Mary and Gimlet, have tamer names. These are also usually ordered during formal parties or business meetings. So, whether the name of ridiculous or classic, how were they named? Here is a rundown of the classic cocktails to help you understand its origin. Let us discover what the mixologists were thinking when they named their creations. 

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Bloody Mary

Although the name may have some gore attached to it, what we love about the Bloody Mary is that it is like a black canvas when it comes to cocktails. The recipe for the drink itself may be standard tomato juice, vodka, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco sauce, celery salt, and black pepper, but the garnishing depends on the imagination of the bartender. From the simple celery stalk to candied bacon strips, baguette, and cold meats to the ridiculous whole roasted chicken, the ideas are limitless.

The name is another story, though. Some say that it was named after Queen Mary I of England who was also known to be “Bloody Mary” in her murderous efforts to re-establish the Catholic Church in England.

Another said that it was named after a Hollywood star Mary Pickford. Pickford was a well-known actress and producer from 1900-1955. Still, another said that it was named after a waitress named Mary who works at a Chicago Bar named the Bucket of Blood. One story that some historians find to be plausible was that it was a mispronounced “Vladimir.” Vladimir Smirnoff was said to have ordered the drink and a nearby client

Bramble

Did you know that the name of this cocktail is inspired by the bushes that bear the berries from which the Creme de Mure was made? Creme de Mure is a liqueur infused with blackberries and gives the cocktail the signature reddish-purple color. 

The creator of this cocktail, Dick Bradsell, used blackberry liqueur to make a variety of the more established Jerry Thomas’ Gin Fizz which uses raspberry syrup. Bradsell says that he experienced the “madeleine effect”, coined by Marcel Proust which means something you have tasted or smelled that prompts a memory when he first drank the cocktail. Bradsell recounted that used to gather blackberries as a boy. Drinking the new cocktail triggered this memory, thus the name. 

Caipirinha

Caipirinha, a traditional cocktail from Brazil, is made by muddling lime with sugar and adding cachaca and ice. Cachaca is made by distilling sugarcane juice, giving it a sweet taste. 

The drink was created as a medicinal drink to treat Spanish flu that became a great killer at the start of the 19th century. Spanish flu was considered a pandemic that lasted for 2 years from 1918-1920 and killed almost one-third of the world’s population at that time. Another supposed job of the Caipirinha was to ward off scurvy by mixing citrus juice with cachaca. 

However, the literal meaning of Caipirinha, “country little girl”, seems to have nothing to do with how the cocktail was named, except that cachaca came from Piracicaba, the countryside in Sao Paulo where the ‘country little girl” moniker came from. Closely related to this theory is that the word was a form of caipira which means from the countryside. 

Cosmopolitan

This is one drink that has too many versions while starting. Accordingly, this cocktail has similarities to the Cape Codder (a cocktail made with vodka and cranberry juice) and kamikaze (equal parts of vodka, triple sec, and lime juice). Contrary to popular knowledge, there was a 1930's Cosmopolitan. The recipe of which was published in a book in 1934 and was made with gin, Cointreau, lemon juice, and raspberry syrup.

However, the Cosmopolitan that we know of today was created by Neal Murray in 1975 at the Cork and Cleaver Steakhouse in Minneapolis, USA. At that time, it does not have a name but as one patron tried it, he exclaimed "how cosmopolitan" and the name stuck. The word cosmopolitan means worldly and the light, fruity taste is the favorite of women who want to conquer the world. Go Cosmo! 

Daiquiri

Daiquiri is one of those cocktails that crossed cultural borders with the migration of people. This American-Cuban cocktail was created by Jennings Cox, an American mining engineer in Cuba during the Spanish-American war in 1898. Daiquiri is the name of a beach and iron mine near Santiago de Cuba, Cuba's second-largest city. Daiquiri, the cocktail, was made with white rum, lime juice, and sugar. The popularity of this drink is one of those silver lining moments since, during World War II that tore the world, the rationing of whiskey and vodka opened new doors for the popularity of rum and rum cocktails such as the Daiquiri. 

Dark ‘N’ Stormy

Dark 'N' Stormy is a trademark cocktail of the Goslings created with the Gosling Black Seal Rum and Barritt's Ginger Beer. When the partnership between the two companies fell apart, Goslings created their ginger beer brand to use in this cocktail. 

Created in Bermuda, reputed as the worst seas to sail in, the dark storm clouds that usually show on the horizon of the islands are enough to scare even the bravest sailors away. 

While the cocktail itself is a stickler to its patent, the stories behind its name were varied. One story is that of an irate sailor who was conned into drinking ginger beer. When he found out, he asked for a stronger liquor and ended up adding a dark rum into the ginger beer. The resulting cocktail looks like the storm clouds in the night sky. It was said that these kinds of clouds will surely result in death or capsizing of the ships. 

Another is of a British navy officer who realized that drinking a mixture of ginger beer and dark rum helped to cure the seasickness of the sailors. Since the seasickness was more pronounced when it was stormy, hence the name. 

French 75

This is another cocktail inspired by the memories of war, specifically, World War I. Created in 1915 by Harry MacElhorne at the New York bar in Paris, it was a mix of gin, champagne, lemon juice, and sugar. For such a drink where champagne is more than the gin, it packs a good amount of kick reminiscent of the 75mm field gun used by the French during the war, giving them an edge over their enemies. The gun which was designed to be anti-personnel because of its quick and powerful firing is also known in the moniker French 75. 

Gimlet

Gimlet, the cocktail, is a simple combination of gin and lime juice. It was created somewhere in 1928 as described in the first record of its existence published in the book The Savoy Cocktail (1930). This cocktail has also so many versions, depending on who publishes it. 

There are two supposed sources for the name of this cocktail. One of which is the unverified claim of Sir Thomas Gimlette KCB who was purported to have introduced it to his fellow soldiers. Another is that it was named after the gimlet (the tool) which is a form of a drill and was used to drill holes for screws. The last one is the more plausible claim since drinkers observe that the cocktail has a deep, piercing effect to its drinkers. 

Long Island Iced Tea

If you're new to the drinking world, one of the most confusing drinks, at least based on the name is the Long Island Iced Tea. Who would have thought that something as innocent as an iced tea can pack so much punch? This cocktail was credited to Robert "Rosebud" Butt who created it for a contest to create cocktails with Triple Sec in 1972. He was then working as a bartender at the Oak Beach Inn on Long Island, New York. If you look at the finished cocktail, it looks like an iced tea and Butt wanted to either pay tribute to his workplace or had no other ideas to come up with at the last minute so the name stuck. 

By the way, the cocktail is made with gin, tequila, vodka, rum, and triple sec and is served in a highball glass filled with ice in the true iced tea fashion to keep up with the moniker. Versions of this cocktail also abound in the cocktail world.

Mai Tai

Controversy will always be abundant in the cocktail world, as in the case of the mai tai. Two supposed creators of this tropical cocktail vied for the honors for years. Donn Beach (also known as Don the Beachcomber) claimed to have created it in 1933 but had named it Q.B. Cooler. Eleven years later, Victor J. Bergeron, invented the mai tai at his restaurant, Trader's Vic, in Oakland, California. While trying to name the cocktail, one patron commented that it was excellent and since it was a tiki drink, Bergeron named it mai tai which means "good" or "excellent" in the Tahitian language. 

Being colleagues for a long time, Beach accused Bergeron to have stolen the cocktail since it tastes almost the same according to some patrons of both bartenders. Beach accused Bergeron of coming up with a recipe trying to copy his Q.B. Cooler. In the end, Bergeron got the naming rights but the controversy between the two never died down. 

Manhattan

Manhattan, the cocktail, got its name from the Manhattan Club in New York City in the 1870s. It was created by Dr. Iain Marshall for a banquet in honor of Samuel J. Tilden, who was running for the office of the president at that time. Tilden who was New York City's governor at the time and forerunner in the presidential race gained a lot of popularity during that banquet and so has the cocktail. It didn't have a name then but people began asking the "cocktail from Manhattan" so the name stuck later. 

Another version of the story as to its name was that the cocktail was created in the 1860s at a bar on Broadway near Houston Street in Manhattan, which was also known as New York City's premier business destination. In the true American fashion, the original Manhattan recipe was made using American whiskey, Italian vermouth, and Angostura bitters as opposed to the newer version which calls for Canadian whiskey. 

Margarita

Margarita (Spanish for daisy) is the Mexican version of Daisy, which in turn was a nickname for Margaret. Daisy is an American cocktail made of brandy, rum, lemon juice, Curacao liqueur, and sweetened with gum syrup. Margarita, on the other hand, is made of tequila to keep up with the Mexican theme. 

Another version as to the name of the cocktail was that the cocktail was created in 1938 for Rita de la Rosa, a Mexican showgirl. The slogan, "Margarita: It's more than a girl's name" was an effective campaign that Jose Cuervo, a tequila brand, ran in 1945. 

Another story, 3 years after the Jose Cuervo campaign, told of how a Dallas socialite by the name of Margarita Sames invented the cocktail while hosting her guests at her Acapulco, Guerrero vacation home. 

There are so many versions of this cocktail but the International Bartenders Association (IBA) recipe of this consists of tequila, Triple sec, and lime juice. Margarita became so popular that a stemware was created just to serve this cocktail. The rim of the glass is usually rimmed with salt and the cocktail is served on the rocks as opposed to other drinks served in stemware. 

Martini

Another cocktail that became so popular that it warranted the creation of its specific stemware is the martini. Made primarily of gin, this is another example of a widely variated cocktail that includes versions such as fruity appletini, lychee martini, and the more classic dirty martini, dry martini, etc. The Vesper martini, also known as James Bond martini, gained popularity when the character asked for vodka martini "shaken not stirred."

The origin of the cocktail is as varied as the versions in the market nowadays. It was said that the martini evolved from a Martinez made with maraschino liqueurs, gin, vermouth, and bitters. The martini had to go through a lot of adaptations to fit with the times. For example, during the Prohibition, the dry martini was created using a very small amount of vermouth. The flavor stuck so the dry martini became a cocktail of its own.  

Mimosa

Mimosas are among the simplest cocktails one can make and has the most variations too. Usually made with equal amounts of champagne and orange juice, this version is also called the classic mimosa and is served in a champagne flute. It was named after the mimosa plant (Acacia dealbata) which has yellow flowers. Mimosas can also be made with other sparkling wines such as the Spanish Cava or rose wine. A similar cocktail made with prosecco is called bellini but people sometimes interchange them without their knowledge. 

Mint Julep

Mint julep is a cocktail one cannot have during the Kentucky Derby. Some people think it would be sacrilege if one passes on having a mint julep during the race since it is considered as the official cocktail of the derby until 2015, that is. From 1938 up to 2015 when it was replaced by Old Forrester, the mint julep held the honor as Kentucky Derby's official drink for a very long time. 

The earliest reference to the term julep means it was something to drink to make drinking medicines easier. In earlier times, medicines do not have the same formulation we have in modern times so it would need a sweet drink for the sweet to swallow it. The Spanish julepe meant rosewater while English juleps were used as a medicine and had some alcohol and camphor to it. 

The mint julep originated in the southern part of the United States in the 18th century and even then, it was known as something that will give relief to stomach sickness. The earlier mention of the mint julep was in 1770 in a play and a short poem. Other mentions later in the century and earlier in the 1900s described it as having rum or whiskey to it and steeped with mint. The modern version of mint julep is served in specially designed mint julep cups is made with bourbon, mint leaves, powdered sugar, and a bit of water. 

Mojito

Mojito was born in the South American country of Cuba, particularly in Havana. Accounts had it that while the cocktail wasn't named at that time, it had the ingredients for making a mojito. It was originally made to provide a remedy to several illnesses after some South American Indians got aguardiente de caña from the coasts of Cuba. At the time, the aguardiente was a crude rum made from sugarcane and was mixed with lime, sugarcane juice, and mint. 

Another version of the story was that the name came from mojo, a Cuban seasoning while still others believe that it was a derivation from mojadito which means "a little wet" in Spanish. 

The modern recipe of mojito consists of white rum, lime juice, mint, and sugar or sugar syrup. Other versions include the addition of coconut-flavored rum, swapping gold rum or tequila for the white rum, and adding fruits such as grapefruit, passionfruit, pears, or strawberries. 

Moscow Mule

The Moscow Mule is a serendipitous creation made with an oversupply of ginger beer. When enterprising friends come together for a collaboration, an amazing drink will be born. Well, that was what happened with the Moscow Mule. After a few hours of pondering about what to do with a carload of Jack Morgan's Cock 'n' Bull ginger beer made by John Morgan, Rudolph Kunnett, then president of Pierre Smirnoff, and John Martin, they came up with the idea of mixing the vodka and ginger beer and added a bit of lemon juice. 

The drink was later named Moscow Mule because of the "kick" from the vodka and that vodka comes from Russia. During that time, in 1941, Moscow was the most popular city in Russia, thus the name. Later, the third man in the group, John Martin, came up with the idea of serving it in a copper mug to advertise the Smirnoff vodka he was selling. The idea caught on that even if the Moscow Mule can be served in any glass, the copper mug is still the go-to glass for this cocktail. As of this time, there are scores of versions of the Mule, including swapping the vodka with tequila, rum, whiskey, and even spiced rum. 

Negroni

Negroni is an Italian drink made from Campari, vermouth, and gin. Campari is a bright red aperitif known for its bitter taste. This is one of those super easy cocktails that only need a good stirring. Like the other cocktails in this list, there are a lot of claims as to the inventor of this cocktail the most prominent was from two Count Negronis, one French and the other an Italian. 

Descending from the Americano, the Negroni came about when Count Negroni asked for something stronger than the Americano at his favorite Caffe Casoni in 1919. The bartender, Fosco Scarselli, threw in equal amounts of gin, Campari, and vermouth. 

Another claim came from the Italian Camilo Negroni who was also a count as proven in later research, as contrary to the claims of the family of Count Pascal Olivier de Negroni, a French count who fought in the Franco-Prussian war of 1870 and was first attributed as the one who inspired the creation of the Negroni. While the real inspiration hasn't come to light yet, it was the Italian Negroni family who decided to cash in the Negroni popularity by establishing the Distilleria Negroni in the year 1919 when the Negroni was born.     

Pina Colada

Of the cocktails listed here, Pina Colada has probably the simplest name to solve. Meaning "strained pineapple", where the pineapple was originally pressed and strained at the time when the modern juicers were not yet available. 

The earliest stories for the creation of the pina colada was in the early 19th century when Roberto Cofresi, a Puerto Rican pirate made a cocktail for his crew made with coconut, pineapple, and white rum. However, with his death, the recipe for the cocktail was lost. Historians do not buy that story, though. However, in the 1950s the New York Times mentioned pina colada made using the ingredients used by Cofresi. It was not confirmed if it was Cofresi's recipe, though.

The real honor, though, was vested upon the Caribe Hilton Hotel when they received the 50th-anniversary proclamation in 2004 from Sila M. Calderon, governor of Puerto Rico for the creation of the pina colada. The hotel claimed one of its bartenders by the name of Ramon "Monchito" Marredo created the cocktail while working for the hotel in 1954.

In 1963, another bartender supposedly created the pina colada while working at the Barrachina, a restaurant in Puerto Rico. 

The more modern take on the pina colada is made with white rum, coconut cream, and pineapple juice. It is prepared by blending the ingredients with crushed ice until it becomes a slushy consistency. This is then served in a hurricane glass and garnished with a pineapple spear, a pineapple wedge, and a cherry. Other versions were also inspired by this lovely tropical cocktail to sip in hot summer days. 

Sazerac

The Sazerac is one of those classic cocktails served with too little embellishments to let the combination of the spirits take center stage. The IBA recipe for the Sazerac calls for cognac, a sugar cube, and 2 dashes of Peychaud's bitters and served in a glass rinsed with absinthe to highlight its strong flavor and aroma. This is best drunk after dinner. Sazerac took its name from the Sazerac de Forge et Fils cognac which is an ingredient of the cocktail in the earlier days.

It was purportedly created by Aaron Bird when he bought The Merchants Exchange Coffee House from Sewell Taylor sometime in the 1850s. At that time, the coffee house imported the Sazerac cognac. In 1870 when Thomas Hardy became the owner of the Sazerac Coffee House, the cocktail was made using rye whiskey when the phylloxera devastated the vineyards of France. Cognac is made with grapes so a lack of grapes had put the distillation of cognac to a hold. After his death, the recipe for the Sazerac recorded by Hardy at some point, the cocktail was published in a book by William T. Boothby in 1908. However, because of its simplicity, it lost its allure until it started to be seeing orders in the 21st century. 

By the way, Sazerac was voted in 2008 to be the official cocktail of New Orleans.

Screwdriver

Vodka is a very versatile spirit since it can be mixed with almost anything because of its clear makeup and without any aroma or flavor that the other ingredients may need to blend with. As a result, it is a perfect spirit to spike any refreshment. This is exactly what some American oil workers did to hide their drinking - mixing some vodka into their orange juice. Since they are working on the rig, they used their screwdrivers to stir the drink. Later, the name stuck. 

However, this is a later development. Earlier, in 1944 and 1949, two magazines featured a cocktail known as Screwdriver to be a concoction of vodka and orange juice. No mention was made as to how the cocktail was named, though, in those earlier days. 

Several screwdriver variants had the most ridiculous names such as Slow Screw, Slow Comfortable Screw, or beat this, Slow Comfortable Screw Up Against a Fuzzy Pink Wall. I wonder how one ever forgets that.

Sidecar

Thought to have been created during World War I after the motorcycle attachment common during those times, the Ritz Hotel in Paris holds the honor of creating it. This was according to claims in 1922 book Harry's ABC of Mixing Cocktails by Harry MacElhone and Cocktails and How to Mix Them by Robert Vermiere. It was also listed in the 1948 book written by David Embury entitled The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks. 

This cocktail is said to embody the colorful culture of New Orleans by mixing spirits from different countries - cognac from France, curacao from Spain, and the sugar-rimmed glass that shows America's creativity. 

Tom Collins

Tom Collins is one of those simple daily beverages spiked with some spirits as it is usually made with sparkling water or soda and added with gin. Itis usually served in a Collins glass with lots of ice and a lemon garnish.

Although there are different Collins drinks, each one of them has its own nuances but the common denominator is the club soda or sparkling water. Tom Collins was first mentioned in the 1822 book by Harry Johnson, New and Improved Bartender's Manual. How it was really named, no one knows but as one English writer observed, it was only natural for an American cocktail to get its name from nowhere except the creator’s imagination. If it were an English cocktail, the writer said, it would have been gin and soda or other similar unimaginative names. 

In 1874, Tom Collins gained fake popularity through pranking people in what was known as the Tom Collins Hoax of 1874. The prank was meant to annoy the person by listening to how Tom Collins, someone he did not know, was talking trash about him. It started in Pennsylvania and other states in the US but so many people have been pranked before it was put to a halt. Some say that this joke became the springboard for making a cocktail to further immortalize it but then again, that was not to be the case. 

White Russian

The White Russian, a derivative from the Black Russian, was added cream to achieve the creamy white or rather lighter color. It is made with vodka, coffee liqueur, and cream, milk, or half and half. However, it was not clear which was created first, the Black or the White Russian. 

In any case, the Russian in the name was a reference to the vodka which is a Russian spirit. The cocktail was first mentioned in California’s Oakland Tribune on November 21, 1965. However, it became known when it was included in the 1998 film The Big Lebowski, although the character referred to it as a “Caucasian” due to its light color. 

Conclusion

Knowing how these cocktails were named is good but the best part of it all is that everything tastes good. Which of these you haven’t tried yet? How about you start with something simple as a Caribou Lou? Or how about a shot? Come on, you know you want to.  

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