A-Z COCKTAIL ORIGINS
Do you ever read the backs of menus? You know, where the restaurant talks about its history or the history of the town it’s located. A-Z Cocktail Origins is kind of like those menus but for cocktails. So choose your poison and ponder its origins while you keep reading.
This origin story is more about Absinthe than the mixed drink that it makes. However, the Absinthe Drip is one way to drink this spirit since Absinthe is too strong to drink straight. The high alcohol content paired with potent flavor requires dilution. An Absinthe Drip does that simply by pouring chilled water over a sugar cube on a slotted spoon into a glass of Absinthe.
French doctor Pierre Ordinaire developed Absinthe in the early 19th century as an elixir. This distilled spirit is made by infusing wormwood, fennel, anise, and other herbs into alcohol through distillation.
The drink was also known as the Green Fairy, the Green Goddess, or the Green Lady and was popular with artists and writers. However, rumors also suggested that Absinthe created hallucinogenic effects causing it to be banned in many countries, including France and the United States.
One particular event caused near-permanent damage to Absinthe’s reputation. In 1905, a French laborer who had spent the day drinking, including absinth, came home and murdered his children and pregnant wife. Many blamed the Green Lady for causing madness, seizures, and low morality, among other ills of society.
Today, however, Absinthe’s reputation has been mostly restored, and the ban on its sale and consumption has been lifted.
This savory cocktail dates back to the Russian Revolution at the turn of the 20th century. Paris became flooded with men fleeing the Russians, and many of them ended up at Harry’s Bar in The Ritz Hotel. There, bartender Ferdinand “Pete” Petiot created a cocktail that originally had a more gruesome name—Bucket of Blood. Others called it the Red Snapper. It eventually traveled across the Atlantic when Petiot arrived in New York and presented the drink to the New York King Cole Bar. Consisting of vodka, tomato juice, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, cayenne, the cocktail looks like the juice of rare steak. While some say the name Bloody Mary references Queen Mary Tudor, who executed hundreds of Protestants in the name of Catholicism during her short five-year reign from 1553 to 1558, others point closer to the creator for the answer. Supposedly Petiot’s girlfriend was also named Mary.
While similar to the Bloody Mary above, the Caesar (also known as the Bloody Caesar) adds clam juice to the tomato juice, vodka, and Worchestershire sauce. In 1969, a restaurant by the name of Marco’s was opening across the street from the Calgary Inn. Walter Chell, the Calgary Inn’s restaurant and bar manager, was tasked with creating a signature drink for the grand opening.
According to Chell, his Italian roots and a dish called Spaghetti alle Vongole inspired the beverage. Vangole is made using a tomato and clam sauce. After three months, Chell’s signature was ready for the grand opening. However, one review of Marco’s was less than flattering. In the October 30, 1969 edition of The Calgary Albertan, columnist Tom Moore dishes not-so-kindly on the Italian restaurant’s menu, décor, and servers. However, the article credits the Bloody Caesar as being Italian, though it’s really Canadian. In fact, Canada declared the Caesar the country’s National Cocktail.
The Cosmopolitan (Cosmo for short) conjures visions of sophistication and class mixed with a little bit of fun. Though that may be more a recent perception. The spirited vodka cocktail combines cranberry juice, lime juice, and Cointreau for a sweet concoction. Origin stories about the Cosmo range from the late 1920s (think Roaring Twenties), where a drink named the Cosmopolitan appears in Barflies and Cocktails, to a drink called the Cosmopolitan Daisy that uses gin as its base. The Cosmo also found a niche during the Swinging 60s and 70s. Then, in the late 1990s, the Cosmo discovered the limelight again as Carrie Fisher’s (played by Sarah Jessica Parker) signature drink in HBO’s Sex and the City.
Tasting of sunshine and beaches, it might be hard to believe how the Daiquiri came to be. Back in 1898, men blasted away in the mines of a small community off the coast of Cuba during the Spanish-American War. One American engineer, Jennings Cox, supervised a mining operation located in a village named Daiquiri. Every day after work, Cox and his employees would gather at the Venus bar. Then one day, Cox mixed up Bacardi, lime, and sugar in a tall glass of ice. He named the new beverage after the Daiquiri mines, and the drink soon became a staple in Havana. Eventually, someone added shaved ice, and sometimes lemons or both lemons and limes were used.
In 1909, Admiral Lucius W. Johnson, a U.S. Navy medical officer, tried Cox’s drink and subsequently introduced it to the Army and Navy Club in Washington, D.C. The popularity of the Daiquiri then increased over the next few decades. In addition, the Daiquiri was one of the favorite drinks of writer Ernest Hemingway and President John F. Kennedy.
History. Legend. Myth. Fiction. Sometimes the backstories are a blend of all of these. Take Harvey, for example. Mr. Wallbanger’s story evolved from a 1968 chili tasting event in San Diego, California. According to the hosts, who were serving Harvey Wallbangers, all that remained of a Laguna Beach party included vodka, Galliano, and orange juice. When the party-goers left, Harvey remained, banging his head against the wall.
That same year, George Bednar, a marketing director for McKesson Imports Company (the maker of Galliano), joined up with graphic artist Bill Young. Their marketing campaign launched a Harvey Wallbanger character that exploded into commercial popularity in the late 1960s and 1970s.
While Bednar and his marketing campaign with Young are true, another, older story about Harvey is the accepted tale. Three-time-world champion bartender (are these championships on Pay-per-View?) Donato ‘Duke’ Antone deserves the credit for the cocktail’s invention. He operated Duke’s Blackwatch Bar on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood. Over the years, Antone collected quite a few credits for famous beverages. As a bartender, his resume was impressive – inventor of the Rusty Nail, White Russian, and Flaming Russian. According to the bartending wizard, in 1952, a surfer named Tony Wallbanger inspired the cocktail. Perhaps, the party in Laguna Beach is a version of Antone’s. However, no one has been able to identify the inspirational surfer.
This green cocktail has a way of easing inhibitions, at least according to Raj Koothrappali from The Big Bang Theory. His first words to Penny after drinking a Grasshopper were, “Where did my life go, Penny?” It would become his signature drink throughout the show. As weird as a green, mutism-relieving cocktail called a Grasshopper might seem, it’s really a sweet, minty, blended cocktail that’s easy to enjoy. And it has been for over 100 years. It made its debut in the French Quarter of New Orleans at the second-oldest restaurant in the city. Tujague’s opened in 1856, and its bar introduced the Grasshopper in 1918 during a cocktail completion. (Again, that must be something worth being a part of.)
An Irish Coffee will always warm up a dreary day. So that’s where its story begins. On a cold, wet day in 1942, weary travelers to the small Shannon Airport in southwest Ireland found their way to a restaurant and chef Joe Sheridan. The chef warmed his guests with hot coffee spiked with whiskey and topped with whipped cream. The passengers asked if the beverage was Brazilian coffee. Sheridan responded that it was Irish coffee. It remained a menu item at the airport when American travel writer, Stanton Delaplane, ordered it.
Delaplane brought the idea to the Buena Vista Cafe in San Francisco, California, on November 10, 1952. After much trial and error, sampling, and a trip back to Ireland for a taste of the original, Delaplane, along with Buena Vista owners Jack Koeppler and George Freeberg, were able to replicate the delicious coffee and the method for floating the cream on top of the coffee.
Not to be outdone, the state of Kentucky claims a coffee, too. Made with Bourbon instead of Irish Whiskey, Kentucky Coffee has a similar effect.
Long Island Iced Tea
This boozy cocktail’s name is deceiving. Composed of four shots of liquor with a splash of triple sec, lemon juice, and soda, it’s not your grandfather’s tea. Or maybe it is. The unsubstantiated legend of this legendary cocktail begins during Prohibition and near the neighborhood of Long Island, Kingsport, Tennessee. If you’re recalculating your GPS, we’ll give you a moment. A man named Charles Bishop, better known as Old Man Bishop, combined tequila, gin, rum, vodka, and whiskey (yes, we know that’s five liquors) with maple syrup. His son Ransom later added cola and lime, and lemon juice.
When it comes to sorting out the legends associated with the origin of the margarita, there are many. However, two things are certain; the cocktail included tequila, and the bartender edged the rim of the glass with salt. In Mexico, when drinking straight tequila (especially if the quality was bad), the best course of action was to down it in one swallow, suck on a wedge of lime, and lick a dash of salt off the back of your hand.
There are many different stories and myths, beginning as early as 1938, about how and when the margarita was created. Whatever its origins, the margarita stands as a classic lime and tequila cocktail. In 1977, Jimmy Buffet’s Son, “Margaritaville” further increased the popularity of the margarita.
This minty drink is the oldest documented cocktail on the A-Z Cocktail Origins list. Used as an elixir for sour stomachs and other ailments, the Mint Julep‘s roots are steeped in remedies using herbs and flowers to make a sugary, medicinal drink dating back to ancient Persia. These concoctions traveled to the Americas and where southerners added bourbon and adopted the mint julep as its signature drink. The Mint Julep is traditionally served in a silver cup over shaved ice. In 1939, the Kentucky Derby made the Mint Julep its official drink.
This sparkling, bubbly cocktail commemorated the 1969 moon landing and was created by Joe Gilmore at the American Bar in the Savoy Hotel. Consisting of a sugar cube, bitters, rose water or orange blossom water, orange liqueur, and Champagne, the cocktail was served to Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins when they returned to Earth.
The exact origin of this light, sparkling cocktail is unclear, but we do know it began in Cuba. Perhaps the Mojito’s association with the tropical island is why a rumor about Ernest Hemingway enjoying it goes around. Unfortunately, though, there is no proof of that. This iced beverage made with fresh mint leaves, lime, rum, and club soda is sweetened with a bit of sugar.
The Paloma is a sparking tequila cocktail made with grapefruit soda. We look to the grapefruit soda for a glimpse into the Paloma’s history. In 1938, the first grapefruit soda came on the scene in the United States. From there, the soda made its way to Mexico in 1955. And that’s where the trail runs cold. Whoever first mixed tequila, lime, and grapefruit soda brought together an undeniably beautiful and delightful beverage.
“Put de lime in de coconut…” While pineapple has been a part of the distillation history of rum, coconut didn’t show up until later. The first written reference to a Pina Colada was in 1922. However, three different claims to the invention of the Pina Colada come from San Juan, so it’s clear that’s where the Pina Colada calls home. It is also the perfect setting for this sweet, blended summer cocktail. The earliest claims to the drink’s creation come from the same hotel, Caribe Hilton. Bartenders Ramon “Monchito” Marrero and Richard Garcia claim that in 1952 (some say 1954), they blended rum, pineapple juice, coconut cream, and crushed ice for a drink that became so popular cocktail Puerto Rico proclaimed the Pina Colada its official drink in 1978.
Similar to bootlegging, rum-running is the smuggling of alcohol across water. The practice originated to avoid taxes applied to liquor, spirits, and other alcohol. Like bootlegging (which is the term for smuggling alcohol across land), rum-running reached a fever pitch in the United States during Prohibition. It was particularly prominent around the Florida Keys. Some of these operations would water down the alcohol they were smuggling before selling it onshore. One claim to the origin of the Rum Runner cocktail is the Holiday Isle Tiki Bar in Key West. The bartender used up excess stock of light and dark rum to mix up the tropical drink. Some say this story takes place in the 1950s; others say the 1970s.
This Caribbean cocktail is made in various ways, but one thing that makes it unique is that the recipes are often written poetically. Poetic recipes have been around for centuries, and the style of recipe caught on in the creation of exotic Tiki drinks like Planter’s Punch and Rum Punch.
A straightforward example of a rhyming punch recipe is “One of sour, two of sweet, three of strong, four of weak.”
The book Storied Sips: Evocative Cocktails for Everyday Escapes, with 40 Recipes by Erica Duecy includes a poem recipe for Planter’s Punch that reads:
“A wine-glass with lemon juice fill
Of sugar the same glass fill twice
Then rub them together until
The mixture looks smooth, soft, and nice.
Of rum then three wine glasses add
And four of cold water please take.
A drink then you’ll have that’s not bad
At least, so they say in Jamaica.”
Basically, the sweet tiki drink can be sweetened with sugar, syrup, other fruit juices, or a combination of these.
The mocktail is named after the cowboy actor and singer known for his horse named Trigger and his fringed shirts who appeared in numerous films from the 1940s through the 1960s. The Roy Rogers is a cola-based mocktail anyone can enjoy. Grenadine syrup adds a little extra flavor and sweetness, and the drink is garnished with a cherry. The Roy Rogers came after our next beverage and is an excellent complement to it, too.
Our second mocktail on the list is inspired by the child actress Shirley Temple. The Shirley Temple combines ginger ale and grenadine for a sweet, sparkly drink. Several bars lay claim to the drink but the actress herself points to the Brown Derby Restaurant where she and her parents often dined. She also said that it was too sweet for her.
Before TikTok challenges, there was the Tom Collins Hoax. And before the Tom Collins cocktail, there was a John Collins drink. Jerry Thomas, the father of American mixology, published the first recipe in his book The Bartenders’ Guide in 1876. This gin-based drink developed around the time that a practical joke was floating around New York City. The target of the hoax would be asked, “Have you seen Tom Collins? Well, he’s saying some pretty salacious things about you. “As the victim became riled, the pranksters would tell the victim where he could find Tom Collins.” Confusion and chaos would sometimes ensue. Some say Thomas changed the name of the John Collins to Tom Collins because of this hoax.
Tom and Jerry
This holiday season cocktail’s origin story is said to honor the aforementioned Jerry Thomas, the father of American bartending. The younger sibling of Egg Nogg, the Tom and Jerry begins with a batter made with eggs, sugar, and spices. The batter is added to hot water or milk spiked with rum.
The story of the Zombie begins with one of the men who popularized the Tiki Bar. In 1933, Ernest Beaumont opened the Don the Beachcomber restaurant in Hollywood and renamed himself Donn Beach. He created the complex cocktail named the Zombie made with three rums. It’s a powerful drink, much like Zombies are.
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