The Origins of 14 Cocktail Names

A cocktail garnished with lime
A cocktail garnished with lime
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The word cocktail is a bit of an etymological puzzle: Originally only a nickname for an animal that rears up when irritated, by the late 1700s it had become another word for a horse with a “cocked” or shortened tail. But how or why it then made the leap to alcoholic mixed drinks in the early 1800s is a mystery.

One theory claims it’s to do with the drinks making you feel energized and sprightly, like an energetic horse, while another suggests it’s because cocktails were popular at the races. Alternatively, the two meanings could be entirely unrelated—one equally plausible explanation is that cocktail might in fact be an anglicized version of the French coquetier, meaning “egg-cup,” which was perhaps once used to serve the libations.

The origins of the names of individual cocktails are often just as tricky to pin down, with rival explanations and rivaling claims of invention often competing against each other. Here are the stories—and theories—behind 14 of your favorite tipples.

1. Bellini

A bellini cocktail
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The pale orange-red color of a classic Bellini cocktail reportedly reminded its inventor—Giuseppe Cipriani, the founder of Venice’s famous Harry’s Bar—of a similar color often used in paintings by the Venetian artist Giovanni Bellini.

2. Mint Julep

A mint julep
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Although nowadays it refers almost exclusively to a cocktail of bourbon whiskey (or, more controversially, brandy) flavored with sugar and mint, the word julep was originally borrowed into English from French as far back as the 1400s to refer to a sweet-tasting or sweetened drink. Before then, it has its earliest origins in the Arabic word for rose-water, julab.

3. Mojito

A mojito with plenty of ice
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Although debate rages over the exact origin of the mojito, according to the Oxford English Dictionary it probably takes its name from mojo, the Spanish name of a Cuban sauce or marinade made with citrus fruit—a mojito is literally a "little mojo."

4. Daiquiri

A frozen daiquiri
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Staying in Cuba, a classic daiquiri cocktail—basically a mojito without the mint—is named after the village of Daiquirí on the far southeast coast of the island. Legend has it that the drink was invented by local American mining engineers around the time of the Spanish-American War when they ran out of gin and had to use the local rum instead.

5. Margarita

Homemade classic margarita
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Marjorie King, a former Broadway dancer, the singer Peggy (i.e. Margaret) Lee, and Margarita Henkel—the daughter of a former German ambassador to Mexico—are all touted as the possible namesake of the margarita cocktail. But in fact the cocktail might not be named in honor of anyone at all—margarita is the Spanish word for “daisy,” and so one theory claims the drink was simply a variation of an earlier Texan cocktail called the “tequila daisy.”

6. Manhattan

Manhattan cocktail garnished with a cherry and lemon
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Although accounts of the event are debatable, legend has it that the Manhattan cocktail was specially invented for a banquet hosted by Lady Randolf (mother of Winston) Churchill at the trendy Manhattan Club in New York in the late 1800s. The name Manhattan was already in use long before then, however, as the name of a different drink from the modern Manhattan cocktail. And at the time this supposed party took place, Lady Randolph was very pregnant with Winston, and living in England. So the real origin is probably lost to time.

7. Rob Roy

A Rob Roy on the rocks
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A Manhattan made with Scotch rather than Canadian whisky is a Rob Roy. It was originally invented at New York’s Waldorf Astoria Hotel in 1894 to celebrate the Broadway premiere of an operetta loosely based on the life of the Scottish folk hero Rob Roy.

8. Old Fashioned

An old fashioned cocktail with cherries
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When it became popular in the late 1800s to introduce liqueurs into cocktail recipes, the older, more basic recipes that omitted them—and in particular this classic mix of whiskey and bitters—became known as “old fashioned” cocktails.

9. Tom Collins

A Tom Collins with lemon wedge
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A John Collins is a mixture of London dry gin, lemon, sugar, and soda. Replace the London gin with Old Tom gin, and you have a Tom Collins. The Collins part is said to come from a 19th century headwaiter known as John Collins, who worked at Limmer's Hotel and Coffee House and is thought to be the inventor of the drink. The Tom part may also have been influenced by an 1874 hoax often perpetrated at bars.

10. Mai Tai

A Mai Tai cocktail by the pool
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Invented at a bar in California in the 1940s, maitai means “good” or “nice” in Tahitian …

11. Piña Colada

A piña colada against a purple background
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… while piña colada means “strained pineapple” in Spanish, a reference to the drink’s fruity base.

12. Sidecar

A sidecar drink
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Although the origins of the sidecar cocktail are hazy, one story claims that it was invented in Paris just after World War I by an American Army captain who could often be seen being driven around the city in a motorcycle sidecar.

13. Singapore Sling

Cold, refreshing Singapore Sling cocktail
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Sling is a general name for any sweetened and flavored drink made from a spirit base. The Singapore sling was invented in the early 1900s at the famous Raffles Hotel in Singapore by an acclaimed barman named Ngiam Tong Boon.

14. Mimosa

A mimosa cocktail with garnish
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The mimosa takes its name from the mimosa plant, Acacia dealbata, which produces bright orange-yellow flowers the same color as mixed champagne and orange juice.

A version of this list first ran in 2015.

Meet Horatio, the Old-Timey ‘Smart’ Speaker From Hendrick’s Gin

Hendrick's Gin
Hendrick's Gin

The tech news you almost definitely heard about this week was Apple’s unveiling of the iPhone 11, a characteristically sleek, user-friendly gadget meant to make your life as modern and efficient as possible. What you might not have heard about was the release of Horatio, a very genteel, relatively smart speaker from the creators of Hendrick’s Gin.

Horatio is not your father’s speaker. In fact, he’s more like your grandfather as a speaker. The tabletop device is made from brass, leather, and copper, and looks like the offspring of a phonograph and a candlestick telephone. He won’t eavesdrop on your conversations, but he also won’t necessarily answer your questions—his slightly snide, British-accented responses range from commenting on your outfit to telling you that it’s “a good day to carry an umbrella in one hand and a cocktail in the other.” If your cocktail happens to be a martini, you can rest it on Horatio’s built-in martini holder.

Hendrick's gin horatio speaker
Hendrick's Gin

The device was released by Hendrick’s new Department of Not-So-Convenient Technology, the intentional antithesis to virtually every other existing department of technology. While most people are optimizing their home offices with minimalist decor and lightweight robot assistants, Horatio is a mascot for those of us who miss the dusty, dimly lit, leather-covered comfort of Grandfather’s study.

He’s not unlike Hendrick’s Gin itself, whose manufacturing process is old-fashioned and utterly laborious. It’s made in a tiny Scottish seaside village on two types of stills, infused with 11 botanicals, and combined with rose and cucumber essences.

Hendrick's gin horatio speaker
Hendrick's Gin

To add to the intrigue, only five Horatios exist in the world, and each unique, handmade device costs $1113. If you want a Horatio for your own home, you should act fast—there's only one left in stock.

And, if you're wondering which drinks pair best with such an eccentric, elegant device, check out these fancy Prohibition cocktails.

11 Common Misconceptions About Beer

iStock
iStock

If beer only conjures up images of frat boys pounding cans of the cheap stuff or doughy sports fans reveling in the alcoholic refreshment before, during, and after a big game, think again. Beer has come a long way, baby, and many of the preconceived notions about the beverage are decidedly unfair, as evidenced by the following 11 fabrications.

1. Beer should be served ice cold.

All of those neon ice cold beer signs are actually bad news for beer drinkers. To properly enjoy their beer, it should be served at 44 degrees Fahrenheit (with a little leeway depending on the type of beer you’re drinking—a barrel-aged Stout, for example, should be served only lightly chilled). The reason is that taste buds become dead to the taste of the drink when it is served any colder, which means you’re not really tasting anything or getting the most enjoyment out of your beer.

2. Frosted beer mugs keep it classy.

Piggybacking on the falsehood that beer should be guzzled cold, it also shouldn’t be served in a frosted beer mug. Would you serve wine in a frosted glass? No. An intensely cold beer mug will also numb your senses to the taste of the beer.

3. All dark beers are heavy.

If you’ve been avoiding dark beers because you fear their intensity, you’ve been sorely misguided. “People naturally assume they are heavier,” says Hallie Beaune, a rep for Allagash Brewing Company and author of The Naked Pint: An Unadulterated Guide to Craft Beer. “I think it’s that connection to Guinness, which promotes itself as creamy and almost like a meal, that’s the feeling they give in their commercials. For a lot of people that’s the first dark beer they’ve had so they assume they’re all similar when, really, dark beers are just dark because of the roast level of the malt that’s used in the beer.”

4. Guinness is inherently frothy.

Sure, Guinness is served all creamy and delicious-looking, but Beaune explains it has less to do with the beer itself and everything to do with the tap most stouts use, which has more nitrogen than the standard tap (generally a mix of nitrogen and CO2). To deliver all that frothiness, a stout faucet, which has a long, narrow spout, is used.

5. Drinking beer from the bottle is the best way to enjoy it.

Sure, a bottle may look more refined than a can, but it’s still not the appropriate vessel. “Drinking beer from the bottle is another no-no, mostly because what you taste comes from your olfactory senses from your nose, so if you take a sip of something from that kind of bottle your nose isn’t participating at all,” says Beaune. “It’s too small for you to get a whiff of the beer. Just like if you were drinking red wine out of a wine bottle, you wouldn’t really be able to evaluate that wine.”

6. You can store beer anywhere.

Think again! All beer should be stored in a refrigerator. It responds best to cold, dark storage.

7. "Skuny" is just a cute word for gone bad.

There is actually a reason why seemingly rancid beer is termed "skunky." “Light can hurt beer—they call it lightstruck,” says Beaune. “The light interacts with the hops in beer (the four ingredients in beer are malt, water, hops and yeast), and it can actually have this chemical reaction that creates a smell that’s the same as a skunk gives off, which is why you hear about skunky beer.”

8. All beer bottles are created equal.

Darker bottles are important. Clear or green bottles may be pretty, but they’re not doing much to protect your beer from light. Dark beer bottles work best to help retain its intended flavor.

9. Canned beer means cheap beer.

Cans are actually a great way to protect beer, but in the old days they would often give the beverage an aluminum taste. “Most of the cans the craft breweries are using nowadays have a water-based liner so the beer isn’t actually touching the aluminum,” says Beaune. “It can be really good for beer. Cans heat up and cool down very quickly, too, so you obviously want to keep them cold.”

10. Beer is much simpler than wine.

You’ve got your four ingredients—malt, yeast, water and hops—what could be more basic than that? Manipulating those ingredients in various ways will give you different varieties, but breweries are doing some really cool stuff by adding flavors you’d never dream would work so well in beer. “A lot of the flavor in beer comes from the malt or the hops or yeast, but then there’s all of this freedom in beer,” says Beaune. “We did a beer at Allagash called Farm to Face, which is a pretty tart and sour beer. We added fresh peaches to it from a local farm. You can’t do that with wine—you can’t add peaches. People add everything you can imagine to beer like pineapple, coconut, every fruit—there are no rules. That’s one of the fun things about beer, it’s a lot like cooking, you can add rosemary, you can add whatever you want. Everybody experiments. It keeps the beer world really interesting.”

11. Beer will give you a beer belly, but cocktails won't.

Sure, anything in excess will contribute to weight gain, but beer is hardly the most calorie-laden drink you’ll find in a bar. Much of the flack beer gets (i.e. the “beer belly”) goes back to the fallacy that beer is particularly heavy. “Most glasses of wine are pretty high in alcohol and a lot of cocktails are way higher in calories,” says Beaune. “If you drink a margarita that’s one of the highest calorie things you can drink.”

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