Why not book cocktail holidays for you and your other half, your bunch of girlfriends or a stag or hen party. From Cuba to Paris, in spirit (!) of cocktail holidays, Purple Travel discovers some of the world’ most famous cocktails and where they came from…
The Mojito, Cuba
Traditionally made using white rum, sugar, lime, carbonated water and mint muddled together, the Mojito is generally believed to be the world’s first cocktail. Thought to have been drunk as early as the 16th century by pirates and sailors, its origins can be traced back to 16th century Cuba, where the drink was called the “El Draque”, in honour of explorer and sailor, Sir Francis Drake.
The legend goes that the drink was first created as a way of disguising the taste of tafia/aguardiente – a primitive form of rum. The modern name for the drink comes from a Cuban sauce called mojo, made from garlic, olive oil and citrus juice; the drink became known as a cocktail with “a little mojo” or, in Spanish, a “Mojito.”
The Singapore Sling, Singapore
The Singapore Sling was first concocted in – you guessed it – Singapore, made from a mixture of gin, cherry brandy and Benedictine, in equal parts, with a dash of bitters and Cointreau, finished off with pineapple, lime juice and grenadine. While the exact year it was created is not clear, most agree that the cocktail was first produced by a Hainanese-Chinese bartender named Mr. Ngiam Tong Boon at the Raffles Hotel’s Long Bar sometime between 1910 and 1915.
Today, the drink is served on all Singapore Airlines flights. You may have also seen it mentioned in many films and books, including Hunter S. Thompson’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, in which Raoul Duke talks about drinking “Singapore Slings with mescal on the side.” You can also order an original Singapore Sling at the Raffles Hotel’s Long Bar, where icons like Rudyard Kipling and others would once sip this famous, fruity cocktail.
The Sidecar, Paris
This classic cocktail that dates back around 100 years is a mix of equal parts brandy or Cognac, Cointreau and lemon juice. The Sidecar is believed to have been first created in Paris sometime during WWI. Harry’s Bar in Paris is the “little bistro” credited as the birthplace of this sweet, yet tangy cocktail, named after the motorcycle sidecar that supposedly carried an American captain to the bar one evening. The captain asked a French bartender for a pre-dinner cocktail that would help ease the chill he had caught outside. The bartender knew brandy would be the best liqueur to take off the chill, but he also refused to serve the traditional after dinner drink alone as a pre-dinner cocktail. The result was the bartender mixed the brandy with Cointreau and added fresh lemon juice to make an appropriate pre-dinner cocktail so the Sidecar was born.
The Pisco Sour, Peru or possibly Chile
The Pisco Sour is made from Pisco (a regional brandy from South America), lemon juice, bitters and egg whites. Many debate whether the origin of this drink is Peruvian or Chilean: In Peru, the creation of the Pisco Sour is attributed to American expatriate Victor “Gringo” Morris at the Morris Bar in Lima; in Chile, it is attributed to the English steward of a sailing ship, which was stopped at the then Peruvian and now Chilean port city of Iquique in 1872.
Whatever the origins of this famous drink, the Pisco Sour has become an iconic cocktail in both countries. In fact, there are even two National Pisco Sour Days (Peru’s in the first Saturday of February and Chile’s is celebrated May 15th) to celebrate this famous cocktail!
White Russian, California
Named for the vodka used in the recipe, rather than the origin, White Russians combine equal parts of cream, vodka and Kahula. In 1961, the Diner’s Club Drink Book, gave a recipe for a “Black Russian” without cream, implying that the same cocktail with cream would therefore be named a White Russian. Today White Russians have inspired a drinking game, in which party-goers try to keep up with The Dude from The Big Lebowski (whose favourtie drink was a White Russian) in their consumption of the cocktail while watching the film itself.
The Manhattan, New York
Known as both “King of Cocktails” and the “Drinking Man’s Cocktail,” The Manhattan is a very potent mix of whiskey, sweet vermouth and bitters, garnished most often with a maraschino cherry.
Regarded as one of the best cocktails ever created, the Manhattan was supposedly first invented at the Manhattan Club in New York City in the early 1870s. Legend has it that the drink was invented for a banquet hosted by Lady Randolph Churchill (Winston Churchill’s mother) in honour of presidential candidate, Samuel J. Tilden. The success of the banquet prompted many people to request the drink by referring to the name of the club where it originated, calling it “the Manhattan cocktail.”
The Mai Tai, California
The tropical Mai Tai is made of a mixture of white and gold rum, pineapple juice, orange and/or lime juice and is of American origin despite its Polynesian name. First created by Victor Buergon, better known as “Trader Vic”, it was called Mai Tai as it was invented in the Polynesian-style restaurant in Oakland, California that bore his name.
Buergon created the first Mai Tai in honour of some friends who were visiting from Tahiti in 1944. As he served the new cocktail to his friends, they cried out, “Maitai roa!” (meaning “very good”), and the cocktail was born.
Tom Collins, New York
While many people assume the drink was named after a real person, there is much debate whether Tom Collins ever actually existed and whether he should be credited to this cocktail of gin, lemon and lime juice and soda water. One popular account involves a hoax that took over New York City in 1874.
A friend would tell you that he had just overheard someone named Tom Collins at a bar nearby saying terrible things about you. You would then race to that bar to confront him, only to be told that Tom Collins had just left for a bar a little further away. When you get there, the mysterious Collins would have decamped yet again for another joint across town. You would then chase him all over the city while your friends are in stictches laughing at you. According to Wall Street Journal columnist and cocktail historian Eric Felten, “It doesn’t take much to imagine how Tom Collins came to be a drink. How many times does someone have to barge into a saloon demanding a Tom Collins before the bartender takes the opportunity to offer him a cocktail so-named?”
Bloody Mary, California
Like the mixture itself, the history behind the Bloody Mary is a bit cloudy. One legend says that the original Bloody Mary, which was made using equal parts tomato juice and vodka and used as a hangover cure, was invented by comedian, songwriter and film producer George Jessel. Jessel claimed he created the drink one morning in Palm Beach during the 50s, as a way to recover from a night spent on the booze. He went as far as to appear in Smirnoff vodka ads declaring, “I, George Jessel invented the Bloody Mary.”
However, Eric Felten writes, “Given Jessel’s knack for self-promotion, many doubted his claim.” Many skeptics favoured a legend involving the head bartender at the St. Regis Hotel in New York named Fernand “Peter” Petriot. Petriot was supposedly serving up Blood Marys under the alias of “Red Snappers” at the hotel’s King Cole Bar from the ‘40s. In reality, the Bloody Mary popular today is in fact a combination of the two men’s creations; Petriot admitted that “George Jessel said he created it, but it was really nothing but vodka and tomato juice when I took it over.” While credit for the original drink goes to Jessel, Petriot wasthe one who added salt, pepper, cayenne and Worcestershire sauce to the concoction, creating the modern Bloody Mary.
The Martini, California
The first Martini was poured sometime between 1862 and 1871 and was called a Martinez, a name to honour the town of Martinez, California, where it was supposedly first dreamed up by bartender Julio Richelieu, proprietor of the eponymous Julio Richelieu Saloon. Today, Martini has become more of a class of drinks than one drink in particular – with variations like Appletinis, Vodka martinis and others becoming popular over the years.
Although the origins of the first Martinez date back to the 1860s, the modern Martini first rose in popularity starting in 1900s during the prohibition period. The Martini then became the drink of choice (or no choice as the case was at the time!) in speakeasies across the country due to the quick accessibility of gin. The modern Vodka Martini, which James Bond enjoys shaken, not stirred, was not created until much later.