They’re delicious, they’re refreshing, they’re intoxicating, they’re beautiful, they look like Linda Evangelista… But how exactly did cocktails get to be known as cocktails? They don’t look particularly like the plumage of a rooster’s posterior, and thankfully, it seems, the origin of their namesake has nothing to do with fowl play. But before we divulge the captivating answer to the cocktail etymology mystery, let’s take a look at some classic cocktail recipes and see how each drink got its name.
Bloody Mary – vodka, tomato juice, hot sauce, Worcestershire sauce, celery salt, garnish(es). There are thousands of variations on this beloved classic, but where did it get its grisly namesake? According to some, the beverage was named after Queen “Bloody” Mary Tudor, although there are as many versions to the story as there are modern variations on the cocktail. While no one knows the origin of the name for certain, this flavorful cocktail is as popular as ever. Call that a beautiful nightmare!
White Russian – vodka, heavy cream, ice, coffee liqueur. This beverage surged in popularity thanks to the 1998 cult classic, The Big Lebowski. While not overtly Russian (with the exception of the inclusion of vodka, which is a popular Russian export), the name comes from a variation of the Black Russian. The “white” comes from the inclusion of an obvious ingredient – the heavy cream!
Cosmopolitan – vodka, orange liqueur, lime juice, cranberry juice. According to several versions of the story, a bartender was working on new recipes and trying out new flavor combinations. The bartender offered their latest attempt to a nearby patron who drank it and assessed, “How cosmopolitan!” Allegedly, the name stuck. Carrie Bradshaw she betta do!
Old Fashioned – whiskey, sugar, Angostura bitters, orange peel, cherry. This one is fun because its name is actually short for “old fashioned style whiskey cocktail,” and its origins date back to the beginning of the use of the word “cocktail” as something to refer to a mixed drink containing alcohol. As Mama Ru says, “New Friends Silver, Old Friends Gold!”
Slippery Nipple – Irish cream liqueur, sambuca, grenadine. Also known as a “Buttery Nipple” when made with butterscotch schnapps, this cocktail gets its name from the nipple-shaped shot of grenadine that appears when the drink is being mixed.
Tom Collins – dry gin, lemon juice, simple syrup, club soda, lemon wedge. While you might assume this one was created by some trade named Tom Collins, but that’s not quite it. Most likely, the origin of the Tom Collins comes from an 1882 bartending recipe for a drink that contained Old Tom gin called a “Tom Collins” and a “John Collins” recipe calling for Holland Gin. Some historians note, however, that there are even earlier mentions of this cocktail or versions it of throughout the early half of the nineteenth century.
Whiskey Sour – bourbon, lemon juice, simple syrup, orange wheel. Some versions may call for egg white or a maraschino cherry, but whichever variation you prefer, the whiskey sour is a classic American cocktail. Like many other cocktails in this list, the first appearance of a “whiskey sour” appears in a nineteenth century copy of The Bartender’s Guide. It’s possible, however, that people had been drinking whiskey sours years prior. Sailors, for instance, used to drink alcohol imbued with citrus to combat scurvy and thirst while voyaging on the high seas.
Manhattan – rye whiskey, sweet vermouth, Angostura bitters, brandied cherry or lemon twist. According to folklore and popular history, the Manhattan cocktail likely originated out of a club of the same name in the late 1800s. While we may never know the true origin of this classic beverage, it’s likely that there’s at least some truth to parts of its origin stories. Manhattan is known for setting trends, after all.
Sex on the Beach – peach schnapps, cranberry juice, orange juice, vodka, ice, cherries, orange slice. The origins of this cocktail take us to 1980s Florida where, allegedly, bartender Ted Pizio came up with a clever marketing tactic to help promote peach schnapps by naming the cocktail after the best parts about Spring Break – “sex” and “the beach!” Add in a harmless preposition, and you’ve got one of the most popular cocktails in the world – a sex on the beach!
Seven and Seven – whiskey, 7 Up soda, lemon wedge. Not much of a mystery here, although it is a unique one. The name comes from a combination of the two main ingredients of this cocktail: Seagram’s Seven Crown and 7 Up – Seven and Seven. Gotta love the simplicity!
Screwdriver – vodka, orange juice, ice. This cocktail is perhaps deceptively simple, and yet its name has nothing to do with its two main ingredients. How on earth did we arrive at “Screwdriver”? According to Victorino Matus, American oil rig workers stationed in the Persian Gulf clandestinely added vodka to orange juice while working. And since the workers had no spoon to stir their impromptu cocktail, they stirred it with a tool that was available – a screwdriver. Innovative!
Long Island Iced Tea – vodka, rum, gin, tequila, orange liqueur, cola, ice, lemon wedge. There’s a great deal of mystery shrouding the origins of this popular cocktail. Some claim that the beverage has Prohibition-era origins, while others postulate that it wasn’t around until the 1970s. Whatever the case may be, once mixed, its contents certainly might look like iced tea from a distance. Novice drinkers, be wary, though – Long Island iced teas are some of the most potent cocktails commercially available.
BAM! What a list! And we only touched on a handful of the countless options and varieties out there. According to some sources, the first instances of the word “cocktail” being used in reference to a beverage come from the early 1800s. How exactly it came to mean an adulterated spirit may remain unknown indefinitely – language can be quite mysterious! However, since its early use, the term has become inseparable from the contemporary adult beverage industry. Nowadays, you can find canned cocktails and ready-to-drink cocktails at nearly any party. If you’re ready to grab some delicious canned cocktails for your next gathering, look no further than HOUSEOFLOVE’s canned cocktail Viewing Party Boxes!