Cocktail Names

Jun 1, 2013
2013 / June 2013

What’s in a name? When it comes to cocktails, the meaning, the magic, the legend, the lure. A drink by any other name would be as tasty, but would it be as tempting? Would Alcohol and Quinine sound as chic as Gin and Tonic?

Speaking of Gin and Tonic, it was the Far East in the 1800s, when quinine was the only — and bitter — tonic for malaria. But add gin, the men of the British military discovered, and the “cure” became a cosmopolitan drink.

When Giuseppe Cipriani of Venice’s Harry’s Bar mixed peach purée with Prosecco in the 1930s, the color reminded him of a painting by Giovanni Bellini. And so we have the Bellini.

One day, before World War II, a man with a warehouse of vodka he couldn’t sell met a man with a warehouse of ginger beer he couldn’t sell. They put them together, added lime and — voilà! — the Moscow Mule.

The gin-based Singapore Sling was created — where else? — in Singapore in 1915 at the Raffles Hotel. The Mint Julep came to be in Mint Springs near Vicksburg, Miss., in 1842, when someone first placed fresh mint in bourbon.

When Jenny Jerome gave a party at the Manhattan Club in New York City in 1874 for New York Gov. Samuel J. Tilden, she asked the bartender to create a new drink. “Begin with bourbon,” she said. She then named it after the club. She went on to become Lady Randolph Churchill and mother of Sir Winston. The Manhattan went on to become one of the world’s most popular drinks.

Then there are the tales of how the cocktail itself came to its name. One tells of a maiden who served a mixed drink to an army officer. Her name? “Octelle, sir.” In another version, the king’s daughter mixed a potion for a visiting dignitary. Her name? “Coctel, sir.” Or it could have been the barmaid, Betsy Flanagan, who stirred her drinks with feathers from a cock’s tail and the Frenchman who exclaimed, “Vive le cocktail!” Or perhaps the horse trader who gave his tired old nag a drink of spirits to jolt him up for sale. It worked so well, he even cocked his tail.

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