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Where did your favorite retro cocktails get their names?

Cocktails have their own special place in popular culture. From the bathtub gin of American prohibition, to the sophisticated beverages of the 1950s, to the fruity concoctions of the 1970s, there is no denying that certain drinks can just take a drinker back to a certain time in history.

November 8 is National Harvey Wallbanger Day — a celebration of a beverage that everyone has heard of, but most people haven't sipped since the 1970s. In recogntion, let's dive into the origins of some memorable cocktail names.


Harvey Wallbanger

The 1970s were a time of silly, sweet drinks with goofy names. The Harvey Wallbanger is no exception. This simple cocktail is made up of vodka, orange juice and the sweet, herbal liqueur Galliano. According to Saveur magazine, the drink was allegedly named after a bar regular named Tom Harvey, whom the creator, Donato "Duke" Antone, would serve at his bar in the 1950s. Legend has it that Duke also created the Rusty Nail and White Russian. As the headmaster of the Bartending School of Mixology in the '80s, he may also be the one to blame for the word "mixologist" entering American vernacular.

Image: Wikimedia Commons


Tom Collins

The story behind the gin beverage consisting of Old Tom gin, lemon juice, water and sugar is super lame and super funny. According to Business Insider, it all stemmed from a joke that "went viral" — in the 1874 sense of the word.

Here's how the prank would go: Someone would ask their friend, "Have you seem Tom Collins?" Their friend would say, "No," and then would reply, "You should look for him, he's been talking mad smack about you," or however people spoke in 1874. The friend would get angry that some guy they've never heard of has been tarnishing their good name, and go off looking for him — usually in bars. So a clever bartender made up a drink named after the mysterious Tom Collins, entrapping angry men into a tall drink order.

Image: Wikimedia Commons


Bloody Mary

Everyone knows the slumber party practice of chanting "Bloody Mary" three times into a mirror and waiting for the image of Queen Mary, the vicious ruler of England known for her multiple executions. However, this story doesn't tie into the beloved hair-of-the-dog cocktail made up of vodka, tomato and various spices and accoutrements.

The story of the Bloody Mary cocktail actually stems from the story of a waitress who worked at the Bucket of Blood Saloon in Chicago in the early 1900s named Mary, according to Modern Notion. Poor Mary had to clean up after every bar brawl, scrubbing blood and spilled liquor off the floor.

Image: Wikimedia Commons


Rob Roy

The Rob Roy is the less popular little brother of the Manhattan, made with Scotch, instead of bourbon, Angostura bitters and sweet vermouth. 

The story behind its name is pretty anticlimactic too. It was just created by a bartender at the Waldorf Astoria in 1894 to celebrate the opening of the operetta Rob Roy.

Image: Wikimedia Commons


Long Island Iced Tea

The history of the deadliest drink in cocktail history is a murky one. The amalgamation of liquors that completely goes against the oft-preached philosophy of committing to a single beverage for the night to avoid wanting to die the next day. It shouldn't work, but does.

According to Thrillist, some believe that the essence of the Long Island Iced Tea was originally created by a man by the name of Old Man Bishop, from the community of Long Island in Kingsport, Tennessee, who mixed rum, vodka, whiskey, gin, tequila and maple syrup during prohibition, because his patrons needed to get their money's worth. 

Then, the '70s came around and a man named Bob Butt decided to try to steal the thunder of Old Man Bishop, claiming that adding triple sec and cola to the mix means he's the "real" inventor of the Long Island iced tea. Nice try, Bob.

Image: Wikipedia


Brandy Alexander

If you can't decide between a digestif or a cocktail after dinner, the Brandy Alexander has always been a popular go-to. Made with — you guessed it — brandy, creme de cacao and cream, the common drink actually wasn't the first iteration of itself.

The Brandy Alexander started off as just the Alexander in the early 1900s, made with gin, creme de cacao and cream in honor of the character Phoebe Snow, used in advertising for the railroad. The goal of bartender Troy Alexander was to create an all-white beverage, according to Food52. Around the 1930s, people began realizing that gin and cream taste weird together, and opted for a less-herbal liquor in the recipe, creating the Brandy Alexander. 

Image: Wikimedia Commons


Death in the Afternoon

Aside from the way you feel after consuming one too many of these at brunch, the Death in the Afternoon, made up of Champagne and absinthe, is named after the Ernest Hemingway novel Death in the Afternoon.

Though the nobody drinks the beverage in the book, Hemingway himself was quite the fan. In fact, alternative names for the drink incude the Hemingway and Hemingway Champagne. The recipe was published in the 1935 book So Red the Nose, or Breath in the Afternoon, a compliation of cocktails of choice of famous authors.

Hemingway himself said, "Pour one jigger of absinthe into a Champagne glass. Add iced Champagne until it attains the proper opalescent milkiness. Drink three to five of these slowly."

Image: Wikipedia


Bobby Burns

The Bobby Burns is very similar to the Rob Roy. Only instead of consisting of scotch, vermouth and bitters, it's made up of scotch, red vermouth and dashes of Benedictine instead of bitters.

Named after the Scottish poet Robert Burns, the cocktail has a few iterations throughout history, including the Robert Burns, which consists of scotch, vermouth, absinthe and orange bitters. We'd like to think the Bobby Burns is the laid-back version of the two.

Image: Wikimedia Commons

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