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Checking Out the Origins of Classic Cocktail Names

Cocktail names seem to get more creative every year. But back in the cocktail’s heyday, drinks were often just named after the person who concocted them or the place where they were invented. What follows is a short list of traditional cocktails and how they came to be called by their familiar monikers:

  • Bellini: Invented in Harry’s Bar in Venice, Italy, around 1943.

  • Black Russian: Created by bartender Gus Tops of the Hotel Metropoli in Brussels. Gus also dispensed scarves with his silhouette and recipe of his cocktail.

  • Bloody Mary: Invented by Pete Petiot at Harry’s Bar, Paris, France, in 1921; he later became Captain of Bars at the St. Regis Hotel in New York, New York.

  • Daiquiri: Conceived by workers from Bethlehem Steel during a malaria epidemic in the village of Daiquiri near Santiago, Cuba.

  • The Gibson: Named after New York artist Charles Dana Gibson by his bartender Charles Connoly of the Player’s Club in New York. Another version credits Billie Gibson, a fight promoter.

  • Harvey Wallbanger: Created by Bill Doner at Newport Beach, California. The Harvey Wallbanger was started as a fad by Bill and was first served at a bar called The Office.

  • The Martini: Seems that everyone wants to lay claim to having invented and named this classic drink. Here are just some of the stories:

    • By bartender professor Jerry Thomas of San Francisco from a stranger on his way to Martinez, California. Made with gin, vermouth, bitters, and a dash of Maraschino.

    • After Martini & Rossi Vermouth, because that brand was first used in the drink Gin and It, with one half gin and one half Martini & Rossi Vermouth.

    • After the British army rifle: The Martini and Henry. The rifle was known for its kick, like the first sip of a Gin and It.

    • At the Knickerbocker Hotel in the early 1900s, a bartender named Martini di Arma Tiggia mixed a martini using only a dry gin and dry vermouth.

  • Negroni: It seems that a certain Count Negroni of Florence once requested a drink that would stand apart from all the Americanos ordered at his favorite neighborhood cafe. The bartender answered his request with a cocktail composed of equal parts gin, sweet vermouth, and Campari, and he garnished the result with a telltale orange slice. Unfortunately for the count, the drink became as popular as the Americano.

  • Side Car: Harry’s New York Bar in Paris, according to owner at that time, Harry MacElhone, after a motorcycle sidecar in which a customer was driving into the bar.

  • Tom Collins: By John Collins, a waiter at Lipmmer’s Old House, Coduit Street, Hanover Square in England. Tom was used instead of John because the drink used Old Tom Gin. Today, a John Collins would use whiskey.

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