The origins of cocktails and their names are steeped in history and are stuff of legends. As varied as their countless sources, and open to the whim of interpretation, they can evoke a multitude of feelings and spark delight. Here are five amusing anecdotes about the origins of some famous cocktails. So pour yourself a long one and read on!
No mixers necessary
The history of this drink dates back to 1919 in Florence, Italy. It is believed the cocktail was created by Count Camillo Negroni, an Italian aristocrat and lover of good food and drink.
The story goes that the count was a regular at the famous Caffè Casoni in Florence and liked to drink an Americano there – a drink made with vermouth, Campari, and soda. One day the good Count Negroni, in his most dangerous thirst, found the drink lacking in strength and spirit. He asked the bartender, Fosco Scarselli, to add gin instead of soda. The count was of English descent and had a certain affinity for this distillate. The change was made, and so was history.
Luis Buñuel was a fan of this cocktail and created a version, dubbed the Buñueloni, made with Carpano Classico vermouth in place of Campari.
The tequila sunrise has an original story, and a reboot. The first dates back to the 1930s. Made with tequila, creme de cassis, lime juice, and mineral water, and created by Gene Sulit at the Arizona Biltmore Hotel, this drink did not enjoy widespread popularity. Years later, however, two young bartenders reinvented it, giving rise to the Tequila Sunrise we all know.
In 1972, Bobby Lozoff and Billy Rice, of The Trident restaurant in Sausalito, California, made a variation of this cocktail with tequila, orange juice, and grenadine for a party organized in honor of The Rolling Stones. Keith Richards recalls in his memoirs that Mick Jagger liked the cocktail so much that the tour was nicknamed “The Cocaine and Tequila Sunrise Tour”.
The Tom Collins is a simple and refreshing drink containing gin, lemon, mineral water, and sugar. The origin of its name, on the other hand, is uniquely convoluted. A guy walks into a bar in New York in the late 1800s. He asks another patron if he knows Tom Collins – whom, of course, he does not – and then goes on to explain, “I just came from bar X and there is a gentleman there named Tom Collins who is talking trash about you.” Offended, the mark now races to bar X looking for this dastardly Tom C, and possibly a fight. Upon arrival he would be told that Tom has just gone to another bar. Thus this poor fellow goes from bar to bar, searching in vain for the slanderous Tom Collins.
Around this time, a bartender had the brilliant idea of creating a drink of the same name, so when a hapless fool walked into a bar and asked for Tom Collins, the barkeep could make them a drink, and charge for it. The cocktail first appeared in print in 1876, in the second edition of Jerry Thomas’ “How To Mix Drinks”.
Black and White
Prior to being repopularized by “The Big Lebowski” after 1998, the White Russian had nearly disappeared from cocktail menus. Back in 1949, Belgian bartender Gustave Tops created a Black Russian – vodka, coffee liqueur, and ice – for the U.S. ambassador to Luxembourg. Somewhere in the late 50s or early 60s, when sweet and creamy drinks were at their peak, someone added cream, and the White Russian was born. In 1961, both versions appeared in the Diner’s Club Drink Book, a fact that underscored its popularity. Like the Moscow Mule, the name refers to the fact that at the time, all vodka in the United States was of Russian origin.
Gin, vermouth, and an olive – one way to mix a classic martini, the iconic drink that has been featured in both literature and film. Some believe it is so named because it contained Martini brand vermouth. The more popular theory is that the original drink was called a Martinez and was made, in 1860, at the bar of the Occidental Hotel in San Francisco, and served to patrons waiting to board the ferry that would sail to the town of Martinez. Like bistec, which comes from beef steak, martini derived from Martinez due to the phonetic differences between Spanish and English.