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5 Famous Cocktails With Wartime Origins

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If "war is hell," then it's no surprise it helped inspire a multitude of mixed drinks to ease the diabolical consequences of combat. Many of the popular cocktails we still enjoy in the 21st century were born, in part, due to wartime. Here are a few of those potent potables, in chronological order:

1. GIN AND TONIC

Gin became massively popular in England in the early 1700s, after the British Crown allowed distillers to produce millions of gallons of the stuff, making it an affordable alleviative for the poverty-stricken folks living in London’s slums. The “Gin Craze” wasn’t just for the poor, however, as it swept across all socio-economic—and geographical—boundaries. By the early 19th century, gin had made its way to India, via the colonization of the country by the British East India Company and its army.

The soldiers and citizenry who settled in India faced an unfamiliar foe in the deadly mosquito-borne disease malaria. While gin couldn’t protect the Brits from malaria, quinine powder (a derivative of the bark of the cinchona tree) could—and the Crown began to ship cinchona bark to its subjects in India in the mid 19th century.

A year after Indian soldiers in the Bengal Army (called Sepoys) rose up against the British in the Indian Rebellion of 1857, a businessman named Erasmus Bond produced a commercially available elixir called “aerated tonic liquid” which contained quinine. English soldiers and citizens in India began to mix their gin with this new tonic water, and the Gin and Tonic was born.

2. DAIQUIRI

The Treaty of Paris of 1898 officially ended the Spanish-American War, and required Spain to grant Cuba its independence as one of the conditions of the peace agreement. The United States government’s motives in ensuring Cuba its independence weren’t exactly altruistic, however, and soon the Spanish-American Iron Company was sending American engineers to Cuba to hunt for iron-ore deposits in the Sierra Maestra Mountains.

One of those engineers, Jennings Stockton Cox, led a mining expedition to a small Cuban town called Daiquiri. Cox suggested to U.S. government officials that working in Cuba might be more palatable with monthly rations of rum—Bacardi Carta Blanca, to be exact. Legend has it Cox entertained his American guests by mixing local ingredients like lime and sugar with with his rum rations—a drink he named after the town in which he was living. One too many Daiquiris probably made it difficult to “Remember the Maine,” but fans of the new beverage didn’t seem to care.

3. SIDECAR

The Sidecar is one of those old-school cocktails that might have faded into oblivion if the 1960s-era television phenomenon “Mad Men” hadn’t catapulted it right back to our collective consciousness. But the Sidecar’s origin goes back even further than Don Draper’s miserable Depression-era childhood. There are a few hypotheses around the origin, but the most popular is that the mixed drink originated in France during World War I, when a U.S. Army captain (whose name is lost to history) was chaperoned to and from his favorite Parisian bar in the sidecar of a motorcycle.

One version of the story has the bartender of the Army captain’s favorite watering hole whipping up an elixir of brandy, orange liqueur, and lemon juice to help the soldier recover from a particularly stubborn cold. Author and cocktail connoisseur David A. Embury seems to confirm this story in his 1948 barkeep bible called The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks: "It was invented by a friend of mine at a bar in Paris during World War I and was named after the motorcycle sidecar in which the good captain customarily was driven to and from the little bistro where the drink was born and christened.”

4. FRENCH 75

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When proposing a toast with a clink of champagne flutes, have you ever found yourself wishing the bubbly in the glass packed more of a wallop? If so, you have something in common with World War I fighter pilot Raoul Lufbery. Lufbery was of French and American descent, and champagne was pilots' intoxicant of choice. But, apparently, it wasn’t intoxicating enough for Lufbery, so he spiked it with a bit of Cognac. The cocktail he created did the trick—so much, in fact, that Lufbery reportedly said drinking it left him feeling like he was hit by a piece of war equipment known as the French 75mm. You can still order a French 75 from a knowledgeable mixologist, although sometimes the beverage is made with gin instead of Cognac.

5. BLOODY MARY

Brunch would be just a placeholder between breakfast and lunch without the help of the ubiquitous Bloody Mary. Despite the name, the vodka and tomato juice concoction did not earn its moniker from Mary I of England, or even the creepy slumber party game. Rather, the savory cocktail owes its roots to the Russian Revolution. After the Bolsheviks overthrew Czar Nicholas II in 1917, many members of the Russian elite were forced to flee their homeland. One of those émigrés was named Vladimir Smirnov, who’d lost his family fortune in the revolution.

Smirnov made a new life for himself by opening a vodka distillery in Constantinople and introducing the resulting liquor to Westerners for the first time. Smirnov started producing vodka in Turkey, then Poland, and finally France—where he changed his name (and the vodka’s) to Smirnoff.

It was there in France where famed bartender Ferdinand “Pete” Petiot is credited with being the first to do more than just mix the new breed of alcohol with tomato juice at Harry’s New York Bar in 1920s Paris. Back then, the cocktail was called everything from Red Hammer to Red Snapper. As for how the name was changed to Bloody Mary, Petiot told the Cleveland Press in 1972 that patrons at a saloon called Buckets of Blood christened the drink after a waitress at the bar they’d nicknamed Bloody Mary.

All images courtesy of iStock unless otherwise stated.

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The Annual Festivals That Draw the Most People in Every State
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Every state has that one big event each year that draws residents from across the region or even across the nation. Louisiana has Mardi Gras. Kentucky has the Kentucky Derby. South Dakota has Sturgis. Genfare, a company that provides fare collection technology for transit companies, recently tracked down the biggest event in each state, creating a rundown of the can't-miss events across the country.

As the graphic below explores, some states' biggest public events are national music and entertainment festivals, like Bonnaroo in Tennessee, SXSW in Texas, and Summerfest in Wisconsin—which holds the world record for largest music festival.

Others are standard public festival fare. Minnesota hosts 2 million people a year at the Minnesota State Fair (pictured above), the largest of its kind in the U.S. by attendance. Mardi Gras celebrations dominate the events calendar in Missouri, Alabama, and, of course, Louisiana. Oktoberfest and other beer festivals serve as the biggest gatherings in Ohio (home to the nation's largest Oktoberfest event), Oregon, Colorado, and Utah.

In some states, though, the largest annual gatherings are a bit more unique. Some 50,000 people each year head to Brattleboro, Vermont for the Strolling of the Heifers, a more docile spin on the Spanish Running of the Bulls. Montana's biggest event is Evel Knievel Days, an extreme sports festival in honor of the famous daredevil. And Washington's biggest event is Hoopfest, Spokane's annual three-on-three basketball tournament.

Mark your calendar. Next year could be the year you attend them all.

A graphic list with the 50 states pictured next to information about their biggest events
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Alexa Can Now Help You Find a Wine Pairing
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Even if you enjoy wine regularly, you may not know exactly how you’re supposed to pair it with food. But you don’t have to be a sommelier to put together a good pairing at home. According to Lifehacker, you can just ask Alexa.

An Alexa skill called Wine Finder is designed to help you figure out which wine varietal would go best with whatever food you’re planning to eat. You just have to ask, “What wine goes well with … ”

Created by an app developer called Bloop Entertainment, the Amazon Echo skill features a database with 500 wine pairings. And not all of them are designed for someone working their way through Mastering the Art of French Cooking. The skill will also help you find the proper pairing for your more casual snacks. In one demo, the skill recommends pairing nachos with a Sauvignon blanc or Zinfandel. (Note that the latter also goes well with Frito pie.)

You can also ask it to find you the perfect wine to drink with apple pie and pizza, in addition to the meats, cheeses, and other wine-pairing staples you might expect. However, if you ask it what to pair with hot dogs, it says “water,” which is an affront to hot dog connoisseurs everywhere.

There are a few other wine-pairing skills available for Alexa, including Wine Pairings, Wine Pairings (two different skills), and Wine Expert. But according to user reviews, Wine Finder is the standout, offering more and higher-quality suggestions than some of the other sommelier apps.

It’s free to enable here, so drink up.

[h/t Lifehacker]

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