Whether you’re relaxing on a sunny beach, or out in town on a Friday night, a cocktail (or two) is always hard to resist. Even those of us most accustomed to the cocktail menu however, may not know the curious origin stories of some of our favourite beverages. Whether you like your cocktails dry and sophisticated, fruity and fresh, or adorned with all the extravagant trimmings, join us as we discover the stories behind our favourite vintage drinks.
Early 1900s — Old Fashioned
Despite its great popularity, this cocktail was originally invented out of pure necessity. People were getting sick and tired of low-quality booze, so they took action. Sugar and bitters did wonders for the previously undrinkable liquor and an all-time classic was inadvertently created. Simply mix your chosen whisky with sugar, bitters, and a few dashes of water to recreate this classy drink.
1920s — Singapore Sling
We can all take a good guess at where this delightfully fruity cocktail originated — colonial Singapore. The famous Raffles Hotel was the birthplace of this drink in 1915, when disenchanted colonial wives wanted to find a socially-acceptable way to drink anything other than tea in public. The Long Bar at Raffles became a haven for women who wanted to get away from the muggy Singapore heat and enjoy a refreshing cocktail. This gin-based beverage also consists of grenadine, bitters, Cointreau, pineapple juice, lime juice, and cherry liquor.
1930s — Bloody Mary
The story being this classic cocktail is as fuzzy as the hangover it promises to cure. There are many different claims associated with this drink, but the general consensus is that it was invented during the 1930s in New York’s 21 Club. The drink was originally a half and half mix of vodka and tomato juice, but has since been spiced up with different additions, such as Tabasco.
1940s — Mai Tai
The Mai Thai was first thought up in 1944. It all started in a small restaurant in Oakland, San Francisco, Victor Jules Bergeron first concocted the drink that we know and love today. After mixing his brand-new drink, he tested it on two of his friends from Tahiti. After taking a sip, one of his friends exclaimed, “mai tai-roa a é” which translates from Tahitian as “out of this world — the best!” Thus, the fruity daiquiri style drink was christened ‘Mai Tai’.
1950s — Martini
This drink is perhaps one of the most famous cocktails of the 20th century. The Martini was popularised by Ian Fleming’s 007 books in which James Bond famously asks for his martini “shaken, not stirred”. Again, the exact origins of this drink are dubious, but many believe that it was initially created in the town of Martinez, California. As the story goes, the drink was first mixed for a miner who asked for something special in return for a nugget of gold. The bar tender made what we now know as a martini, and the rest is history.
1970s — Harvey Wallbanger
This fun cocktail puts you in mind of a 1970s disco. Originally, this drink was made using vodka and orange juice. However, it was only with the addition of Galliano, an Italian liqueur, that this drink really took off.
1980s — Piña Colada
Originating in Puerto Rico, the Piña Colada is perhaps the most quintessentially tropical cocktail. The combination of rum, cream of coconut, and pineapple juice makes for a frothy and refreshing drink that has been a favourite ever since its popularisation in the 1980s. According to the Caribe Hilton, a premiere San Juan hotel, the cocktail was first created by Ramon “Monchito” Marrero, a bartender at Beachcombers bar. The drink supposedly took months, and hundreds of different combinations, to perfect.
1990s — Long Island Iced Tea
Although this slushie cocktail was first created in Long Island during the prohibition, it didn’t acquire the popularity it holds today until the 1990s. The dangerously high alcohol content of this drink makes for a banging headache the next day, but if you want a party drink that will pack a punch, why not opt for rum, gin, vodka, triple sec, and tequila?
2000s – Cosmopolitan
During the late 90s and the early 00s, this bright pink cocktail was all the rage. Kitsch and fun, this drink characterised high-end parties and became a staple of the 2000s. This drink is thought to have evolved from the 1960s drink, the Harpoon. The Harpoon was invented by Ocean Spray, as a way to market their cranberry juice towards adults as well as children. Later, Cointreau was added to the Harpoon’s vodka, cranberry, and lime combination and the Cosmopolitan was born.
Why not take any excuse to throw a cocktail party? Pull out all the stops and impress guests with your knowledge! Go all out on a vintage theme, decorate your place and polish up your antique silver. You’ll feel sophisticated and wonderfully refreshed after any of these historical beverages.