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Stories About The Origins Of Cocktails

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Vote up the cocktail origin stories that are so good, you'll want to open a tab.

It’s hard to think of a more popular bar drink on a night out than a cocktail. Some mixed drinks are so well-known, they’ve essentially become household names with their own interesting origin stories.

It’s worth taking a deeper look at the historical tales behind cocktails, and how different cocktails got their names. Which ones surprised you the most? Give them a vote!

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  • The Daiquiri Was Created After Someone Ran Out Of Gin At A Cocktail Party
    Photo: Will Shenton / Wikimedia Commons / CC-BY-SA 3.0

    The Daiquiri is a fruity cocktail that's a combination of sugar, lime, and rum. But just as appealing as its recipe is its origin story.

    Though its origins are a bit unclear, they can be fairly reliably traced to 1896, to a recipe card signed by “Jennings Cox.” What could have been a misfortune - running out of gin at a cocktail party - ended up being a blessing in disguise. While Cox was mixing a gimlet, he substituted rum for the missing gin and the Daiquiri was born. It's believed that the new drink was coined the Daiquiri after a nearby port town in Cuba. 

  • There are few drinks with a reputation quite like the Long Island Iced Tea. This cocktail, most frequently served in a tall, narrow glass, is composed of a wild mix of vodka, rum, gin, tequila, and triple sec, along with a splash of coca-cola and sweet and sour mix.

    Its history is just as intriguing as its recipe. While there are many different versions of its origin story, two have gained the most credence. One story states that it was invented during Prohibition by a man named Old Man Bishop in Tennessee. The drink was created to elude the authorities by making sure it truly resembled the non-alcoholic beverage that shared its name: iced tea. And it's believed that it was made so strong because of the difficulty people had in finding alcohol during Prohibition. 

    The second story simply states that a bartender, Robert Butt, first mixed the cocktail in 1972 in a bar in Long Island. 

  • While it's commonly thought that the White Russian was named after its country of origin, the cocktail isn't native to Russia. The White Russian actually originated in Belgium. It was first made in 1949 by Gustave Tops, who created its sister cocktail, the Black Russian, at the same time. The difference between the two? The White Russian has cream, and the Black Russian doesn’t.

    This staple cocktail wasn’t terribly well-known for a time, though. It wasn't until it was featured pretty prominently in the comedy film The Big Lebowski that it became popular in the United States. Over the course of the movie, the Dude can be seen drinking a White Russian almost 10 times, and the film even kicks off with him buying its staple ingredient: cream. The cameo this drink got in the cult-classic film ultimately helped it take off in popularity in the US.

  • Few drinks are quite as sinisterly named as the Kamikaze, which shares its name with a group of Japanese soldiers who executed military plans while simultaneously sacrificing their lives to carry these plans out. However, there are several competing origin stories for this drink.

    In one story, the drink emerged from Japan in the aftermath of WWII. American soldiers occupied Japan directly after the conflict. According to this story, the Kamikaze was created on a US military base in Tokyo during the occupation. The name is a reference to the Japanese pilots who gave their own lives to try and take out their enemies.

    Another story insists, however, that it didn't truly emerge until the 1970s, during the disco era. Author Heywood Gould explained:

    The Kamikaze is one of a class of disco cocktails invented by barbiturated teenagers. It is a senseless, infuriating concoction made of equal parts vodka, lime juice, and triple sec (some regional variations include Tequila), shaken and strained into an ounce-and-a-half shot glass, and thrown down in one gulp. Its intent is instant inebriation.

  • The Moscow Mule is a pretty recognizable drink whenever it's served in a copper mug, which is basically part of the recipe for the cocktail. Without this mug, the bubbly beverage may have never come about.

    Allegedly invented in the 1940s, the cocktail came to fruition when three struggling businessmen joined forces. John. G. Martin was struggling to sell vodka in the United States, as many Americans believed it to be a Russian liquor and chose not to partake. Martin ran into Jack Morgan, who was having a difficult time selling ginger beer, at a bar in Los Angeles, and the two began talking about their struggles together. Along with another businessman who was having a difficult time selling copper mugs, the three men decided to team up and market the drink - a mix of vodka, ginger beer, lime juice, and mint - in the copper mugs. As the story goes, the drink took off quickly, and has remained a mainstay in bars across the US since.

    So, where did the name come from? It's said that associating the drink with Russia was natural considering the connection the country has to vodka. But the "mule" is actually in reference to the kick of flavor provided by the ginger beer. 

  • Cuba is the birthplace of many classic cocktails, but none perhaps are quite as recognizable as the one that includes the island’s name in its own: the Cuba Libre. Similar to a rum and Coke, the Cuba Libre necessitates a a squeeze of lime in the recipe.

    As its name suggests (it directly translates to "free Cuba"), the drink stems from the 19th century, when Cuba was trying to gain independence from Spain. It became especially popular during the Ten Years' War (1868-1878), but gained traction in the United States during the Spanish-American War, when the US used the phrase “Cuba Libre” as a rallying cry. Once the war was over, American companies like Coca-Cola began to come to the island, influencing the drink’s current composition.