There are a lot of stories behind the origins of classic cocktails
Have you ever wondered where your favorite cocktails came from? Or who was the genius who came up with it? Well, you are not alone. People have been asking these questions for years, and some brave folks went searching through history to find the answers.
The drunk history behind classic cocktails is shrouded in a lot of myth and legend, but out of every story, there is an inkling of truth.
The word “Cocktail” for instance, was defined in 1806 as “a stimulating liquor composed of any kind of sugar, water and bitters…” by a New York Newspaper called “The Balance, and Colombian Repository.” But cocktails themselves existed long before the term was coined as the name for Mixed Drinks.
Let’s take a look at the history of these five cocktails.
History Behind Classic Cocktails
1. Tom Collins
image and recipe via sarcastic cooking
Unlike cocktails that made someone a household name – sorry to say – there was no real Tom Collins. This classic cocktail actually got its name from a prank that was pulled on some New Yorkers back in 1874, and every bartender in the place was in on the joke. It [supposedly] all started with a friend telling another friend that a guy named Tom Collins had been talking smack about them at a particular bar – but because this was 1870’s, it might have gone more like “Tom Collins, that old Lush, was here speaking ill about your person and mizzled down to [insert bar here].”
Of course any New Yorker worth their salt would go after the scoundrel to clear his name, via fisticuffs I’m sure, and would be directed on a wild goose chase by bartenders throughout the city. That was until some bartenders got clever and began serving the Gin cocktail when folks came in looking for ‘Tom Collins’. So a silly prank, and ironically Victorian values, gave rise to one heck of a cocktail.
Check out the recipe for our Tom Collins derivative the Tom’s Carolina Cousin.
2. The Martini
image and recipe via Martha Stewart
The origins of this classic cocktail are highly contested and have sparked a coastal rivalry between the many cities that claim to be its birthplace. It has been speculated that the Martini was named after the Martini & Rossi Company, an Italian distiller, and exporter of sparkling wines and vermouths, one of the main ingredients of the namesake cocktail. Other Libation Historians say it was named after bartender Martini di Arma di Taggia, who made the cocktail for John D. Rockefeller at the Knickerbocker Hotel in New York, before the installation of Prohibition.
Vodka would later take the place of Gin in the Martini following the end of WWII and would remain the popular version of the cocktail. Martinis have become the classic cocktail of Hollywood, featured in movies and TV shows from James Bond to Will and Grace. Whoever the Martini is named for may forever remain a mystery; However, the real question remains, Shaken or Stirred?
3. Long Island Ice Tea
image and recipe via food network
It’s the unholy mixture of clear spirits, Triple Sec, and Coca-Cola that your bartender wished you didn’t order, but tastes so good. The history of the Long Island Ice Tea is often contested by many bartenders. But the story goes that the LIT was a contest entry by a bartender named Robert “Rosebud” Butt, while he worked at the bar of the Oak Beach Inn in New York back in the 70’s.
Despite having zero Iced Tea in the recipe, the LIT gets its name from the color mixture of Coke and Sour Mix. There’s a reason why it’s abbreviation is LIT, because it will get you lit fast, but hit you hard the next day. As Ethan Flex put it, if we ever need a Patron Saint of Bad Hangovers, we elected Rosebud.
image and recipe via Chowhound
Good old New Orleans is the home of the French Quarter pharmacy where the Sazerac was created. This Pre-Prohibition era cocktail was invented by a Creole pharmacist named Antoine Peychaud in 1838. Peychaud, who is also the inventor of Peychaud’s bitters, created the original recipe which was a combination of rye whiskey, Absinthe, rich simple syrup, and Peychaud’s Bitters. After the FDA banned Absinthe in the US, the Sazerac Company began to use Herbsaint, an anise-flavored liquor, as a substitute for Absinthe.
image and recipe via food network
Did you know the Gimlet was invented to battle scurvy? Vitamin C deficiency, also known as scurvy for you land lubbers out there, was a serious problem for sailors before the turn of the 20th century. [According to the most popular origin story] In the 1860’s, Mr. Lauchlin Rose created a lime juice based cordial that did not require refrigeration, for sailors to take on long voyages. Sailors, being sailors, began to add other liquors such as Gin, Rum, and Whiskey to the cordial and the Gimlet, as we know it, was born.
The Gimlet possibly got its name from Rear-Admiral Thomas Gimlette, a naval surgeon who is also credited with its introduction as a scurvy-battling medication to the British Navy. From scurvy-fighting, to Pinterest worthy, the Gimlet became world famous around 60 years ago because of Raymond Chandler’s The Long Goodbye, in which he wrote, “A real gimlet is half gin and half Rose’s Lime Juice and nothing else. It beats martinis hollow.” The rest is delicious history.