10 Cocktails That Have Unexpected Histories

Perhaps history is the last thing you’re thinking about when you a take a sip of your favorite cocktail—but the origin of your drink might surprise you. From The Manhattan to Bacardi’s Cuba Libre, here are the true backstories of the world’s most famous drinks.

1. The Sidecar

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Dating back to WWII, the Sidecar was allegedly created in France when an American officer asked a French bartender to make him a pre-dinner cocktail. Not wanting to just serve the officer brandy, the bartender added in orange Cointreau and fresh lemon juice. The name is said to have come from the motorcycle sidecar the officer used to get to and from the bistro where the drink was first created.

2. The Mojito

This drink is widely thought of as the very first cocktail. First created in the 16th century under the name “the Draque,” the mojito was introduced to Cuba by Richard Drake. The original recipe used aguardiente (an early form of rum), sugar, mint and lime. Eventually, Don Facundo Bacardi Masso refined the recipe using Bacardi rum and the mojito (creole for “little spell”) was born.

3. The Manhattan

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The Manhattan (made of whiskey, vermouth and bitters) was first made at The Manhattan Club in New York City for a banquet that Winston Churchill’s mother hosted to honor the then-presidential candidate, Samuel J. Tilden. And because the event was such a success, the Manhattan became a very trendy cocktail amongst powerful circles in the city. Read more here.

4. The Cuba Libre

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Also known as a Rum and Coke, the Cuba Libre originated in Cuba in 1900. When Colonel Teddy Roosevelt and his Rough Riders helped fight for Cuba’s freedom, they toasted their victory with this concoction of Bacardi Rum, cola and lime.

5. The Tom Collins

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This refreshing beverage made of gin, lemon juice, sugar and carbonated water was created in 1874 when people would prank their friends by saying someone named Tom Collins was speaking negatively about them behind their backs. Men and women would barge into bars demanding to confront this mystery “Tom Collins,” and bartenders eventually realized that what those people really needed was a drink.

6. The Bellini

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The Bellini, made of Prosecco and white peach purée, is most associated with brunch. Giuseppe Cipriani named the drink after Giovanni Bellini, whose painting of a saint’s toga reminded him of the pink color of his favorite bubbly drink. Bon appetit!

7. The Kir

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Considered an iconic French aperitif, the Kir (Crème de cassis and white wine) was already a popular drink well before its famous moniker. The mayor of Dijon, France, Felix Kir, served this drink so frequently to dignitaries that he decided to name it after himself.

8. The Moscow Mule

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Traditionally served in a copper mug, the Moscow Mule is a concoction of vodka, lime juice and ginger beer. This drink gained most of its popularity in Los Angeles, but was created in a bar in New York City over hors d’oeuvres. Big names in the vodka and ginger beer industries were enjoying a convivial night when they decided to mix their products together.

9. The Vesper

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The Vesper, made of gin, vodka, Kina Lillet and a lemon peel, began as a fictional drink. It was created by James Bond in the 1953 novel, Casino Royale, when Bond told the bartender he needed a strong drink. And thus, we have one!

10. The Bloody Mary

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Comedian George Jessel supposedly invented the Bloody Mary in 1939 to honor all the blood spilled by Queen Mary I. The vodka (or firewater) allegedly symbolizes the Queen’s brutal killing methods. Despite its frightening beginnings, this drink remains a morning favorite to this day.

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