Bartender, I’ll have sex on the beach, please.
That joke never gets old. Some cocktails were named just to hear a customer order them, others for the way they promise to make the drinker feel (Stinger, Gimlet, Zombie). Still others identify ingredients or flavors (Pimm’s Cup, Lemon Drop, Orange Blossom).
Many drinks are simply named for the place where they were invented. The daiquiri, for example, comes from Daiquirí, Cuba, about 14 miles east of Santiago de Cuba. It’s not always so simple: The Manhattan was created in Manhattan, at the Manhattan Club. But some claim that it was concocted in 1874 in honor of Governor William J. Tilden; others theorize that it came to be in 1890 for Supreme Court Justice Charles Henry Truax. The Screwdriver was allegedly named in the 1950s for oil riggers stationed in the Middle East who used their screwdrivers to stir their drinks. Allegedly is the key word, because really, who remembers? Below, a few more contested cocktails.
Hunka Hunka Burnin’ Love
So how do modern mixologists name their drinks?
Portland, Oregon-based consultant Ryan Magarian often goes for shock value. “I love names with unexpectedness,” he explains. Consider the Hot Voodoo Love, which is on the cocktail menu at Table 8 in Florida’s South Beach. Magarian deconstructs the name: Hot is appropriate for a drink featuring horseradish-infused vodka. Voodoo is intended to evoke a magical feel. And Love?
“I look for words that are stimulating, sexy, strike a chord,” he says. “I have a series of love drinks,” including the memorable Love Unit, concocted for Hyde Lounge in Los Angeles. “I’ll see a group of girls reading Love Unit on the menu and they’ll giggle; I love it.”
Meanwhile, David Wondrich, classicist that he is, riffs on the old standbys. He created the White Star Imperial Daisy for Manhattan’s 5 Ninth restaurant. The restaurant is about a block away from where the White Star steamship line used to dock. White Star is also the name of a type of Moët Champagne. “In the old days, if you used Champagne instead of fizzy water, [a Daisy] would be called an Imperial or a Royale,” Wondrich says. And so, the White Star Imperial Daisy—based on a classic Daisy—was born.
Not every drink name is destined to endure. Wondrich created the Swinging Chad, but “after the 2000 election was over, everyone got sick of it.”