How 10 popular cocktails got their name

ShutterstockMany cocktails have mysterious name origins.
  • Cocktails are mixed, alcoholic drinks and many popular ones have mysterious name origins.
  • Margaritas may have been named after a woman who was allergic to most types of alcohol, but the cocktail’s official origin remains a bit unclear.
  • The Manhattan was possibly invented in a club of the same name
  • Visit INSIDER’s homepage for more stories.

Although you might be able to list the key ingredients of popular cocktails, you might not know where the drinks actually got their signature names. Some cocktails have a pretty straightforward backstory whereas others’ history remains up for debate even decades later.

From daiquiris to a Bloody Marys, here’s how 10 famous mixed drinks may have gotten their names.


Sex on the Beach has a seemingly simple backstory.

GettySex on the Beach is a famous cocktail.

A Sex on the Beach typically consists of just a few ingredients including peach schnapps, vodka, orange juice, pineapple, and cranberry juice.

Per HuffPost, one popular lore about this cocktail’s roots states that a distributor for peach schnapps sponsored a contest offering prize money to the bar that sold the most of their product.

Following the announcement of this contest, a Florida bartender named Ted Pizio reportedly used the schnapps to create this suggestively named cocktail, reported Vine Pair.

According to legend, Pizio named the cocktail Sex on the Beach because he figured “sex” and “the beach” were two main reasons why vacationers and spring breakers visited the Sunshine State each year.


The mint julep name has origins that go as far back as the early 1400s.

Ivan Mateev/ShutterstcokThe drink is commonly garnished with mint.

The Kentucky-Derby staple begins with a bourbon-whiskey base flavored with additions of sugar and mint.

The term “julep” has Persian roots and its original pronunciation, “gulab” essentially means sweetened rosewater. According to The Atlantic, the term translated to “julab” in classical Arabic and eventually into Latin as “julapium.” Eventually, the word would morph into “julep.”

This rosy origin of part of this cocktail’s name could make sense since this drink is sometimes made using floral ingredients like candied rose petals that have been soaked in sugar water.


A daiquiri likely gets its name from an island in Cuba.

GettyDaiquiris come in a lot of flavours.

The cocktail usually consists of sugar, rum, lime juice, and simple syrup. And though some may identify the daiquiri with revered author Ernest Hemingway (legend has it he’s a huge fan of them), the drink itself is likely named after the beach of Daiquirí, which is located on the coast of Cuba.

Per Eater, the cocktail was first documented by Jennings Cox – the oldest known mention of this cocktail’s recipe is on a card from 1896 with his name on it. Cox was an American engineer who lived and worked in Cuba following the 1898 Spanish-American War.

Some believe that he created the drink when he ran out of gin during a party and then instead used local, Cuban distilled rum to make cocktails.

That said, the daiquiri was likely not first created by Cox. People in Cuba had been creating variations of the lime-and-sugar drink under different names years before Cox ever even arrived in the area.

Read More: What 10 of your favourite celebrities order at the bar


The Manhattan was possibly invented in a club of the same name.

iStockThe Manhattan has a few ingredients.

Popularised in the late 1800s and consisting of rye, sweet vermouth, and bitters, the Manhattan has a bit of an enigmatic history.

A popular legend suggests the drink got its name after it was specifically created for a banquet hosted by Lady Randolph Churchill, mother of Winston Churchill, at the upscale Manhattan Club in New York around the late 1800s.


Piña colada, a Spanish name, roughly translates to “strained pineapple.”

iStockPiña coladas have some mysterious origins.

The creamy concoction was born in Puerto Rico (and became the area’s national drink in 1978)- but its more specific origins and creation date remain a bit unclear and controversial.

Per what’s likely the most popular story, Ramón “Monchito” Marrero, a bartender at The Caribe Hilton in San Juan first developed the recipe in 1954. The cocktail consisted of rum, coconut cream, and pineapple juice.

However, some stories suggest other bartenders, mixologists, and even pirates, who were also in Puerto Rico throughout the 1800s and 1900s are the true creators of the cocktail.

Read More: 11 popular cocktails to try from around the world


A martini’s backstory may not be all that complicated.

Typically made with gin or vodka and vermouth, the martini is widely believed to have gotten its name simply because Martini & Rossi’s vermouth was used in this cocktail’s initial development.


An old fashioned is named for exactly what it implies, a pretty basic and timeless cocktail.

iStockThe drink’s name origin is seemingly simple.

Per Thrillist, it’s widely believed that this cocktail got its name after a lot of people began ordering their drinks in “the old-fashioned way” throughout the late 1800s. People ordering drinks in this fashion wanted to stick to the basics and eventually the modifier “old-fashioned” became the name for this classic cocktail with a lot of variations.

The typical ingredients in this drinkare pretty simple and basic: a bit of sugar or simple syrup, a splash or two of aromatic bitters, perhaps an ice cube, and liquor. Irish or rye whiskey, bourbon, gin, brandy, and rum have all made the cut as the spirit of choice for this beverage, although traditionalists will usually opt for one of the whiskeys.


Margaritas may be named after a woman.

iStockMargaritas are usually served in a glass with salt on the rim.

Per Smithsonian magazine, bartender Carlos “Danny” Herrera supposedly thought up this drink around 1938 in Tijuana, Mexico. He created it for Marjorie King, an aspiring actress who he said was allergic to “everything except tequila.”

After crafting something for King to drink, Herrera reportedly dubbed the drink the margarita, which is a Spanish twist on Marjorie’s name, per the Los Angeles Times.

A different, seemingly debunked, origin story suggests that a wealthy Texas-based socialite named Margarita Sames first made the drink for friends in 1948 and named it after herself. But in 1945, three years before Sames claims to have created the drink, the first shipment of Jose Cuervo’s tequila arrived in the United States and it was advertised with the slogan, “Margarita: it’s more than a girl’s name.”

Read More: 8 places to visit if you like tequila


A mimosa is likely named after a pretty plant.

iStockMimosas are sparkling cocktails.

Equal parts sparkling wine and fruit juice, this brunch favourite likely gets its title from the name of the plant. Acacia dealbata or “mimosa trees,” grow bright, orange-yellow flowers that happen to be the same colour as mixed champagne and orange juice.


The Bloody Mary has curious and unclear origins.

shutterbugger / iStockIt’s oftentimes garnished with celery.

The supposed origin of the Bloody Mary is a bit unclear and a variety of tales about the vodka-and-tomato-based cocktail have popped up over the years.

One of them involves an American bartender at Harry’s New York Bar, which is actually an eatery located in Paris, France. Per Esquire, Fernand Petiot, the bartender who supposedly was one of the first to develop this drink in the 1920s, served this cocktail to a patron who dubbed it the Bucket of Blood. He apparently suggested the name because it reminded him of the Bucket of Blood nightclub in Chicago. Some believe this name later developed into Bloody Mary.

But another supposed origin of the cocktail involves an early campaign for Smirnoff vodka. In it, American actor George Jessel said the drink was actually named after his friend Mary Geraghty, per Esquire’s report.

But, of course, one of the most popular origin tales is that the drink is named after the English monarch Queen Mary Tudor, whose nickname was famously “Bloody Mary” because of how many Protestant heretics she burned at the stake.

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