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Cocktail Chemistry: What's the Right Way to Make a Sex on the Beach?

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In the cocktail world, what was once old is new and trendy again. Suspenders, mustaches, hand-carved ice balls—the flash and dazzle of 19th century bartending might be here to stay. But more recently, some bartenders have been searching through the archives of the Disco Era for cocktails to find new inspiration.

One such drink is the Sex on the Beach. Like the Cosmopolitan and the White Russian, these drinks flourished during the period between the 1960s and early 2000s, when sour mix and juice from a soda gun were bar staples (and bars used provocative names like the "Buttery Nipple" or "Surfer on Acid" instead of quality ingredients to sell drinks).

But the Sex on the Beach still has a surprising following. A mistranslation of the phrase is captured for posterity by current Top 40 song “Cake By The Ocean.” There's even a modern cocktail company named after the cocktail. Their website claims “the earliest known invention of the cocktail and name dates back to 1987 in Florida, USA.” According to them, peach schnapps had just become available, and a distributor offered a bonus to the bar and bartender who sold the most.

As their story goes:

"A young bartender named Ted, working at Confetti’s Bar, mixed up a peach schnapps, vodka, orange juice and grenadine cocktail. When Ted began to sell the drink, he was asked what it was called. On the spot, Ted thought what the main reason was that people came to Florida for their Spring break—it was The Beach and Sex.”

It's a fun story, but it's probably untrue. In 1982, a recipe for the Sex on the Beach (that included peach schnapps) graced the pages of a book published by the American Bartenders School.

It’s likely that a bartender (or bartenders) created the peachy recipe by combining a Fuzzy Navel (orange juice and peach schnapps) with a Cape Codder (vodka and cranberry juice with a lime). As for how the name and the drink came together, there's nothing more to go on than speculation.

Hazy origins or not, this tropical, sweet cocktail is more than just fun to order—it's tasty to drink, too.

HIT THE LAB

Sex On The Beach
1 1/2 ounce vodka
3/4 ounce peach schnapps
1 1/2 ounce cranberry juice
1 1/2 ounce orange juice

Combine all ingredients in a highball glass filled with ice. Garnish with a slice of orange.

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Big Questions
Why Do People Drink Mint Juleps at the Kentucky Derby?
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Whether you plan to enjoy the race from Churchill Downs or don an elaborate hat in the comfort of your own home, if you're watching the Kentucky Derby, you may find yourself sipping on a refreshing mint julep this weekend. But, why?

The drink—a cocktail traditionally composed of bourbon, sugar, water, and mint—has been a Kentucky favorite since long before Churchill Downs came into play. In fact, in 1816, silver julep cups were given as prizes at Kentucky county fairs (a change from the stuffed animals they offer today). And before that, a “julep” was considered medicinal, “prescribed” for stomach problems and sore throats.

Though mint juleps have likely been enjoyed at the Kentucky Derby since the beginning—legend has it that founder Meriwether Lewis Clark, Jr., planted mint for cocktails when he founded the track in 1875—the cocktail wasn’t declared the “official” Derby drink until 1938.

It was just a few years ago that the Derby switched to a more “authentic” version of the mint julep. For almost two decades, the 120,000 mint juleps served at the races were made with Early Times. Based on the aging process, Early Times isn’t considered bourbon (just “Kentucky whisky”) in the U.S. In 2015, they switched to Old Forester, which is also owned by the Brown-Forman Corporation.

Even with the switch to “real” bourbon, what most revelers actually get is the Old Forester Ready-to-Serve Cocktail mix, not a handcrafted mint julep—unless you’re willing to pony up $1000. For the past 13 years, Brown-Forman has served a special version of the drink made with Woodford Reserve small batch bourbon. It’ll set you back a grand, but hey, you get to keep the pewter cup—and proceeds benefit the Jennifer Lawrence Arts Fund (yes, that Jennifer Lawrence). In 2016, the Oscar-winning actress—and Louisville native—founded the organization "to assist and empower organizations that fulfill children's needs and drives art access to positively impact the lives of young people."

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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Animals
The Surprising Role Bats Play in Making Your Margarita
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The next time you have a margarita, raise your glass to the humble bat. Long-nosed bats are the main pollinators of agave, the plant used to make both tequila and mezcal. (Tequila is specifically made from blue agave, or Agave tequilana, while mezcal can be made from any species of the plant.) These agave plants open their flowers at night, attracting bats with their sugary nectar, and in turn, the bats help spread their pollen.

One of those bats, the lesser long-nosed bat, just got off the endangered species list in April 2018, as The Washington Post reported. It's the first bat species ever to recover its population enough to be taken off the Endangered Species List. Its revival is due, in part, to tequila producers along the bat's migration route between Mexico and the southwestern U.S. making their growing methods a little more bat-friendly.

While the relationship between bats and agave might be mutualistic, the one between bats and booze isn't necessarily so. Typical agave production for tequila and mezcal involves harvesting the plant right before it reaches sexual maturity—the flowering stage—because that's when its sugar content peaks, and because after the plant flowers, it dies. Instead of letting the plants reproduce naturally through pollination, farmers plant the clones that grow at the agave plant's base, known as hijuelos. That means fields of agave get razed before bats get the chance to feed off those plants. This method is bad for bats, but it's not great for agave, either; over time, it leads to inbred plants that have lower genetic diversity than their cross-pollinated cousins, ones that require more and more pesticides to keep them healthy.

Rodrigo Medellín, an ecologist who has been nicknamed the "Bat Man of Mexico," has been leading the crusade for bat-friendly tequila for decades, trying to convince tequila producers to let some of just 5 percent of their plants flower. The Tequila Interchange Project—a nonprofit organization made up of tequila producers, scientists, and tequila enthusiasts—led to the release of three bat-friendly agave liquors in the U.S. in 2016: two tequilas, Siembra Valles Ancestral and Tequila Ocho, and a mezcal, Don Mateo de la Sierra.

In 2017, when Medellín and his team visited the agave fields of Don Mateo de la Sierra to gather data, they discovered that the project was even more bat-friendly than they thought. The Mexican long-nosed bat, another endangered species, was also taking its meals at the field's flowering plants.

This weekend, raise a glass of tequila to all the bats out there—just make sure it's a bat-friendly brand.

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