What’s In A (Cocktail) Name? [Moscow Mule Recipe Included]

cocktail names

Photo courtesy of Kondor83 via Shutterstock.

By Nick Stokes

Cocktails represent one of the most interesting aspects of any serious bar, adding a sense of mystery to an establishment. Hey, you never really know what you’re going to get. Almost as fun as the ingredients that get added into these drinks — from craft liquors to house-made tinctures to freshly foraged additions — are sometimes their names.

One of the cocktails with the funniest names is the “Harvey Wallbanger.” As the story goes, there was a surfer named Harvey that loved going to a local bar after work. There, he would order a regular screwdriver — orange juice with vodka — and add his own twist of Galliano to the mix. After getting sloshed, he would stumble around the bar, hitting (or banging!) into stools and walls.

The Manhattan” is a cocktail that, according to legend, was concocted specifically for one occasion. Samuel J. Tilden won the election for governor in New York in 1874. To celebrate his victory, Jennie Churchill, Winston Churchill’s mother, threw a party in the Manhattan Club and ordered the special brand new drink to be served.  This cocktail became very popular, and when people ordered it they would order “Manhattan” after the club where it was first made. Keep in mind, this is one story of numerous that exist for the creation of The Manhattan.

Back in the day, you could get different types of alcohol in your pharmacies. Some of them were mixtures that were even presented as magical cures. One such mixture was the “Sazerac.” This drink was made in 1830 by pharmacist Antoine Peychaud, who made numerous changes to the drink over time, like adding his special bitters once absinthe was banned in 1912. His pharmacy became wildly popular for this cocktail. Fun (Potential) Fact: The Sazerac was the world’s first cocktail.

There are many different stories about the “Bloody Mary.” Some say it was originally created as a hangover cure by comedian George Jessel, although it was just tomato juice and vodka before Harry Petriot, bartender in Harry’s American Bar in Paris, spruced it up. He was quoted by the New Yorker as saying, “I cover the bottom of the shaker with four large dashes of salt, two dashes of black pepper, two dashes of cayenne pepper, and a layer of Worcestershire sauce; I then add a dash of lemon juice and some cracked ice, put in two ounces of vodka and two ounces of thick tomato juice, shake, strain, and pour. We serve a hundred to a hundred and fifty Bloody Marys a day here in the King Cole Room and in the other restaurants and the banquet rooms.”

cocktail names

Bloody Mary. Photo courtesy of Ramon L. Farinos via Shutterstock

During WWII, Americans were not keen on buying Russian products — like vodka, as it was perceived as a purely Russian drink. The “Moscow Mule” was invented by John G. Martin, distributor of Smirnoff vodka, and Jack Morgan, owner of Cock ‘n’ Bull restaurant.  Martin couldn’t sell his vodka while Morgan had a storeroom full of ginger beer. Together, they came upon an idea to create a mixture that has both of these unwanted ingredients, served in copper mugs for a bit of flair.

It is still uncertain how this cocktail got its name. The first part, “Moscow,” was used because most of the people associated vodka with Russia — although Smirnoff vodka was created and produced in the USA. “Mule” is probably used because of the ginger beer, which packs a flavor punch like a mule.

Cocktail creation offers a great way for baristas to express their ingenuity and craft a delicious experience. One bar that has great ideas for new cocktails is the D.W. Alexander Bar in Toronto, Canada, who provided the above article. They’re also sharing their Moscow Mule recipe below.

cocktail names

Moscow Mule. Photo courtesy of Nan Palmero via flickr.

Moscow Mule Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 2 ounces vodka
  • 4 ounces ginger beer
  • Half a lime

Take a lime and squeeze the juice into the mug. Toss the lime inside. Put ice in the mug, then vodka. Lastly, top it with the ginger beer.

Recommended Reads:

Liquid Intelligence: The Art and Science of the Perfect Cocktail by Dave Arnold

The Ultimate Bar Book: The Comprehensive Guide to Over 1,000 Cocktails by Mittie Hellmich

The Drunken Botanist: The Plants That Create the World’s Great Drinks by Amy Stewart

Guesstimation: Solving the World’s Problems on the Back of a Cocktail Napkin by Lawrence Weinstein

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Jessica Festa

Jessica Festa is the editor of Epicure & Culture as well as Jessie on a Journey. She enjoys getting lost in new cities and having experiences you don’t read about in guidebooks. Some of her favorite travel experiences have been teaching English in Thailand, trekking her way through South America, backpacking Europe solo, road tripping through Australia, agritouring through Tuscany, and volunteering in Ghana.

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