5 Famous Cocktails With Wartime Origins


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:


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.


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.


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

Didriks, Flickr

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.


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.

Today's Wine Glasses Are Almost Seven Times Larger Than They Were in 1700

Holiday party season (a.k.a. hangover season) is in full swing. While you likely have no one to blame but yourself for drinking that second (or third) pour at the office soiree, your glassware isn't doing you any favors—especially if you live in the UK. Vino vessels in England are nearly seven times larger today than they were in 1700, according to a new study spotted by Live Science. These findings were recently published in the English medical journal The BMJ.

Researchers at the University of Cambridge measured more than 400 wineglasses from the past three centuries to gauge whether glass size affects how much we drink. They dug deep into the history of parties past, perusing both the collections of the Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology at the University of Oxford and the Royal Household's assemblage of glassware (a new set is commissioned for each monarch). They also scoured a vintage catalog, a modern department store, and eBay for examples.

After measuring these cups, researchers concluded that the average wineglass in 1700 held just 2.2 fluid ounces. For comparison's sake, that's the size of a double shot at a bar. Glasses today hold an average of 15.2 fluid ounces, even though a standard single serving size of wine is just 5 ounces.

BMJ infographic detailing increases in wine glass size from 1700 to 2017
BMJ Publishing group Ltd.

Advances in technology and manufacturing are partly to blame for this increase, as is the wine industry. Marketing campaigns promoted the beverage as it increasingly became more affordable and available for purchase, which in turn prompted aficionados to opt for larger pours. Perhaps not surprisingly, this bigger-is-better mindset was also compounded by American drinking habits: Extra-large wineglasses became popular in the U.S. in the 1990s, prompting overseas manufacturers to follow suit.

Wine consumption in both England and America has risen dramatically since the 1960s [PDF]. Cambridge researchers noted that their study doesn't necessarily prove that the rise of super-sized glassware has led to this increase. But their findings do fit a larger trend: previous studies have found that larger plate size can increase food consumption. This might be because they skew our sense of perception, making us think we're consuming less than we actually are. And in the case of wine, in particular, oversized glasses could also heighten our sensory enjoyment, as they might release more of the drink's aroma.

“We cannot infer that the increase in glass size and the rise in wine consumption in England are causally linked,” the study's authors wrote. “Nor can we infer that reducing glass size would cut drinking. Our observation of increasing size does, however, draw attention to wine glass size as an area to investigate further in the context of population health.”

[h/t Live Science]

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84 Years Ago Today: Goodbye Prohibition!
A huge queue outside the Board of Health offices in Centre Street, New York, for licenses to sell alcohol shortly after the repeal of prohibition. The repeal of prohibition was a key policy of Franklin Roosevelt's government as it allowed the government an opportunity to raise tax revenues at a time of economic hardship.
A huge queue outside the Board of Health offices in Centre Street, New York, for licenses to sell alcohol shortly after the repeal of prohibition. The repeal of prohibition was a key policy of Franklin Roosevelt's government as it allowed the government an opportunity to raise tax revenues at a time of economic hardship.
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It was 84 years ago today that the Twenty-First Amendment to the Constitution was ratified, repealing the earlier Amendment that declared the manufacture, sale, and transport of alcohol illegal in the United States. Prohibition was over! Booze that had been illegal for 13 years was suddenly legal again, and our long national nightmare was finally over.

A giant barrel of beer, part of a demonstration against prohibition in America.
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Prohibition of alcohol was not a popular doctrine. It turned formerly law-abiding citizens into criminals. It overwhelmed police with enforcement duties and gave rise to organized crime. In cities like Milwaukee and St. Louis, the dismantling of breweries left thousands of people unemployed.

Photograph courtesy of the Boston Public Library

Homemade alcohol was often dangerous and some people died from drinking it. Some turned to Sterno or industrial alcohol, which was dangerous and sometimes poisoned by the government to discourage drinking. State and federal governments were spending a lot of money on enforcement, while missing out on taxes from alcohol.

New York City Deputy Police Commissioner John A. Leach (right) watches agents pour liquor into sewer following a raid during the height of Prohibition.

The midterm elections of 1930 saw the majority in Congress switch from Republican to Democratic, signaling a shift in public opinion about Prohibition as well as concerns about the depressed economy. Franklin Roosevelt, who urged repeal, was elected president in 1932. The Twenty-first Amendment to the Constitution was proposed by Congress in February of 1933, the sole purpose of which was to repeal the Eighteenth Amendment establishing Prohibition.

American men guarding their private beer brewing hide-out, during Prohibition.
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With passage of the Constitutional Amendment to repeal Prohibition a foregone conclusion, a huge number of businessmen lined up at the Board of Health offices in New York in April of 1933 to apply for liquor licenses to be issued as soon as the repeal was ratified.

The Amendment was ratified by the states by the mechanism of special state ratifying conventions instead of state legislatures. Many states ratified the repeal as soon as conventions could be organized. The ratifications by the required two-thirds of the states was achieved on December 5, 1933, when conventions in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Utah agreed to repeal Prohibition through the Amendment.

Workmen unloading crates of beer stacked at a New York brewery shortly after the repeal of Prohibition.
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A brewery warehouse in New York stacked crates past the ceiling to satisfy a thirsty nation after the repeal of Prohibition.

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Liquor wouldn't officially be legal until December 15th, but Americans celebrated openly anyway, and in most places, law enforcement officials let them.


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