Cheers! Tracing the History of Classic Cocktails

People have been mixing drinks to suit their tastes for centuries. In fact, many of the most popular and well known drinks requested by bar patrons today were first created by bartenders decades ago. Ever wonder about the history behind these classic cocktails? Being able to explain the origin of a mixed drink makes for great conversation with your patrons. The origin of many popular cocktails remains elusive, often with multiple sources claiming credit. Others can be traced back to a particular mixologist or bar. While several cocktails have more stories about their origins than ingredients in the actual drink, here are a few we can help pinpoint for you:

  1. Long Island Iced Tea – The history of the Long Island Iced Tea is easy to trace back to, you guessed it, Long Island! This drink was first whipped up by bartender Robert “Rosebud” Butt at the Oak Beach Inn in the mid-1970s (Chow, Wikipedia).
  2. Piña Colada – The official drink of Puerto Rico, made famous by Rupert Holmes’ song “Escape” (more commonly known as the ‘Piña Colada Song’), and most likely created by one of two individuals who claim credit (Chow). Depending on which account you believe, the tropical cocktail was either created by Ramon Monchito Marrero Pérez in 1954 at the Caribe Hilton, or across town by Don Ramón Portas Migot in 1963. You can read the Puerto Rico Herald’s article, “A Caribbean Tale of Two Piña Coladas,” and decide for yourself.
  3. The Mojito – This drink is popular once again, and while the exact origin can’t be confirmed, all are in agreement that its origin can be traced to Cuba, and may have first showed up around 400 years ago (Chow, Wikipedia, Bacardi). The mojito may have been popular in Cuba for many years, but perhaps its most famous fan was writer Ernest Hemingway who helped make the drink, and the Cuban bar La Bodeguita del Medio, popular among the masses.

The origin of some cocktails has become the stuff of tall tales and legends, but it certainly makes for good material to debate. What is your favorite classic drink recipe?


© 2011 National Hospitality Institute®, TAM® of Nevada


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