More Famous Cocktails and Their Origins


This month, we continue last month’s origins of famous cocktails and the ways these drinks have inspired world leaders, artists, poets, films and socialite parties.

  1. The Manhattan

This powerful drink which is also known as “King of Cocktails” is made by mixing whiskey, sweet vermouth, bitters and decorated with maraschino cherry. It is also one of the legendary six classic cocktails included in the famous book, The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks by David Embury.

This drink is said to be first created at the Manhattan Club in New York City in the early 1870s for a banquet hosted by Lady Randolph Churchill, the mother of Winston Churchill to honour presidential candidate Samuel J. Tilden. This drink’s success made it fashionable among powerful people in New York City.

There is also another legend which states that a bartender with the surname of Black created the Manhattan cocktail at a bar on Broadway in New York City sometime in the 1860s. Regardless of which one the true story is, the cocktail is named after the island it came from.

  1. The Mai Tai

This drink is made by mixing white and gold rum, pineapple juice, orange and lime juice and is of American origin. It is said that the drink is invented by Victor Buergon who is also known as “Trader Vic” at his Polynesian-style restaurant in Oakland, California.

It is said that Buergon created the first Mai Tai to honour some of his friends visiting Oakland from Tahiti in 1944. His friends shouted “Maitai roa!” which means very good after he served the cocktail which has rum mixed with fruit juices and orange flavoured liquor and this gave birth to the cocktail which has a history containing controversy.

His rival, Donn Beach who is the founder of tiki restaurants, bars and clubs Donn also claims to be the inventor of Mai Tai in 1933 at his newly opened Hollywood restaurant. This man is also the original founder of Polynesian restaurants which became a trend after WW2. These two men are largely responsible for popularising the drink as they sold the drink in their restaurants. The drink is also associated with Hawaii even though its origins are from California.

  1. Tom Collins

It is said that this drink is named after the founder but no one is ever really sure of whether this drink made from gin, lemon, lime juice and soda water was really created by him or not. Another story says that this cocktail is named after John Collins, a headwaiter at a London Hotel in the early 19th century. This cocktail got its name switched to Tom Collins after Old Tom brand gin was used to replace the drier gin in the original recipe.

Another story depicting the legend of this drink is a prank which took over New York city in 1874 which was something like this. A friend runs into you on the street and overhears Tom Collins at a bar down the street saying hateful and disrespectful things about you. You race down the bar to confront the disrespectful man and you get told that Tom Collins left for another bar several blocks away. When you arrive, Collins would have left for another joint across town. Your friends are roaring with laughter when you chase all over the city. The prank was so notorious to the point that local newspapers started reporting the prank. The Steubenville Daily Herald reported that the prank caused young men to rush wildly through the city’s streets on Saturday to hunt for the disrespectful Tom Collins which they were told they would find at local bars.

This cocktail has become so popular to the point that it has inspired the name of a glass and whenever customers enter a saloon and demand Tom Collins, the bartender immediately serves it to them.

  1. Bloody Mary

It is said that this drink was first invented by George Jessel, a comedian, songwriter and movie producer who is also known as the “Toastmaster General of the United States”. The drink was first created in Palm Beach during the 1950s by mixing tomato juice with vodka to recover from a whole night spent drinking. He even appeared in Smirnoff vodka ads in the 1950s saying that he invented the drink. However, Jessel’s natural ability at promoting himself caused skeptics to search for the drink’s true origin which led them to Fernand “Peter” Petriot, the head bartender at the St.Regis Hotel in New York.

It is said that Petriot was serving Bloody Mary cocktail drinks under the name “Red Snappers” at the hotel’s King Cole Bar in the 1940s. Petriot also claims to be the inventor of this cocktail when it became popular in the 1950s by saying that he created it while working at Harry’s Bar in Paris during the 1920s. In fact, these two men were responsible for creating this drink. Even though Petriot admitted Jessel created it, Petriot also mentioned that he mixed salt, pepper, cayenne and Worcestershire sauce to invent the modern version of Bloody Mary.

  1. The Martini

This is the most popular cocktail and the phrase three-martini lunch has become a well-known phrase created for expensive and long lunches taken by business executives. Different variations of Martini include Appletinis, Vodka martinis and others.

The first Martini drink was called a Martinez to pay respects to the humble town of Martinez, California and first poured sometime between 1862 and 1871 where it was falsely first dreamed up by bartender Julio Richelieu, owner of Julio Richelieu Saloon. That version of the cocktail consists of sweet vermouth, gin, bitters and was decorated with a maraschino cherry. This version eventually paved the road for present day drier versions which includes gin, vermouth and bitters which was said to be popularised when John D. Rockefeller started consuming them at the turn of the 20th century.

The Martini may have originated in the 1860s but the modern version became popular in the 1900s. This drink became the drink of choice in speakeasies during prohibition across the country due to its accessibility and gin production. Drinkers either consumed a gin Martini or no drink at all in pubs or bars. The modern vodka Martini which James Bond’s loyal followers often order (shaken, not stirred) was invented much later and purists claim this version to be ridiculous. This cocktail will always have staying power regardless of the ingredients used to mix and make it.

If there’s anymore you guys would like us to share, do let us know in the comments below!