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Sep 30, 2022

How These Classic Cocktails Got Their Names

The names of cocktails are often just as colourful and fruity as the drinks themselves! Here’s a look at how some of the most popular cocktails got their names. 

Last update: Sep 30, 2022 -

2 min read


The names of cocktails are often just as colourful and fruity as the drinks themselves! Here’s a look at how some of the most popular cocktails got their names. 


The Tom Collins

The Tom Collins is a refreshing gin, lemon juice, and soda cocktail. The story goes that in the summer of 1874 in New York, a prank spread across the entire city. People would tell their ‘friends’ that a man named Tom Collins has been spreading slander and gossip about them, causing them to go looking for him in bars and pubs.

At one particular pub, the bartender grew weary of this happening, and made a cocktail which he named after the fictitious slanderer, and offered it to anyone who came asking for Tom Collins. There isn’t much evidence to back up this story, but it’s an amusing one! The tall glasses the drink is served in came to be known as a Collins glass. 

This classic cocktail can be given a fun twist by mixing in a handful of muddied raspberries at the bottom of the glass, and giving it a good stir with a long handled cocktail spoon. Alternatively, you could substitute the gin for cognac, to make a Brandy Collins. Spice it up with a slice of ginger, or a lemon peel garnish. 


The Sidecar

The Sidecar is a classic cocktail made with cognac brandy, orange liqueur, and lemon juice. Like most cocktails, there are various stories about how it got its name. The most commonly told one is that it was invented in Paris during World War I. 

An American army captain fell into the habit of arriving at his favourite bistro, Harry’s New York Bar, in a sidecar, and the owner Harry MacElhone created the cocktail in his honour. 

There are many variations to the classic Sidecar, including the Chelsea Sidecar, which substitutes brandy for gin, the Biggles Sidecar, which uses a ginger liqueur, and the Chocolate Sidecar, which is made with crème de cacao and port. These all sound amazing!


The Martini

Perhaps the most cocktail of all, this is a mixture of gin and vermouth, served in an iconic glass with a thin tall stem and a shallow funnel shaped bowl. Again, there are plenty of stories about how it was created and given its name. The most popular appears to be that it was invented by the legendary American bartender Jerry Thomas in the 1860s. 

Thomas spent some time working at the Occidental Hotel in San Francisco, where he would make the mixture of gin and dry vermouth for customers, who would then move on the spend the evening in the nearby town of Martinez. Thus, the drink came to be known as the Martini.

The James Bond movies have led many people to believe that a Martini should be shaken, not stirred, but in fact, the opposite is true: most professional bartenders will stir a Martini, as this brings about the right balance of texture and flavour. You can learn more about the art of stirring and shaking on a mixology course!


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