Back of the Napkin
June 16, 2023

The Fascinating Origins and Stories Behind Classic Drinks

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Cocktails have become an integral part of our social gatherings, offering a delightful blend of flavors and a touch of sophistication. But have you ever wondered how these concoctions got their intriguing names? Join us on a journey through time as we uncover the fascinating stories and trivia behind some of the most well-known cocktails. From classics that have stood the test of time to modern creations, each drink holds a tale that adds flavor to your glass and enriches your drinking experience.

The Mojito – A Cuban Classic

Originating in the sultry streets of Havana, the Mojito is a refreshing cocktail that captures the spirit of Cuba. Legend has it that its name stems from the Spanish word “mojar,” meaning “to wet” or “to moisten.” The Mojito’s birth can be traced back to the 16th century when sailors mixed aguardiente (a crude form of rum), lime juice, sugar, and mint to combat scurvy during their voyages. Over time, the cocktail evolved, and rum replaced aguardiente, resulting in the beloved Mojito we know today.

The Martini – Shaken, Not Stirred

A symbol of elegance and sophistication, the Martini has a history as rich as its flavor. Its name is derived from the Italian vermouth brand, Martini & Rossi, which was widely used in the drink’s early variations. The Martini’s roots can be traced back to the 19th century, when it was known as the “Martinez” cocktail. As the story goes, a miner traveling through Martinez, California, during the Gold Rush era requested a special drink at a local bar. The bartender mixed gin, vermouth, maraschino liqueur, and orange bitters, giving birth to the precursor of the modern Martini. As time passed, the recipe evolved, and the drink became synonymous with elegance and sophistication.

The Margarita – A Tequila Tango

The Margarita is a beloved cocktail that perfectly combines the zing of lime, the bite of tequila, and a hint of sweetness. Its name, Margarita, is derived from the Spanish word for “daisy.” The origins of this classic cocktail are shrouded in mystery, with multiple stories claiming to be the true inspiration. One popular theory suggests that it was created in the late 1930s or early 1940s by Carlos “Danny” Herrera, a bartender at his family’s Tijuana-based restaurant, Rancho La Gloria. He crafted a drink for a customer who was allergic to all alcohol except tequila but found it too harsh to consume straight. Herrera combined tequila, lime juice, and triple sec, serving it in a salt-rimmed glass, and thus, the Margarita was born.

The Cosmopolitan – A Glamorous Twist

The Cosmopolitan, famously known as the “Cosmo,” gained mainstream popularity in the 1990s and became an icon of the modern cocktail scene. Its name stems from the cosmopolitan lifestyle it embodies, blending elegance, sophistication, and a touch of sass. The origins of the drink can be traced back to the 1970s, when it was first created by a bartender named Neal Murray at the Cork & Cleaver restaurant in Minneapolis. However, it wasn’t until the 1990s, when it made appearances in the television series “Sex and the City,” that the Cosmopolitan gained worldwide fame, turning it into a staple of cocktail culture.

The Negroni – A Bitter Symphony

The Negroni is a cocktail that boasts a perfect balance of bitter and sweet flavors, resulting in a truly sophisticated drink. Its name is linked to Count Camillo Negroni, an Italian nobleman with a taste for unique concoctions. Legend has it that in the early 20th century, Negroni requested his usual Americano cocktail (made with Campari, sweet vermouth, and club soda) with a twist. He asked the bartender to replace the soda water with gin, creating the iconic Negroni we know today. This bold variation quickly gained popularity and has since become a classic in the world of mixology.

The Piña Colada – A Taste of Paradise

The Piña Colada is synonymous with tropical getaways, sandy beaches, and a carefree spirit. Its name, which translates to “strained pineapple” in Spanish, perfectly describes its main ingredients. This cocktail’s history can be traced back to Puerto Rico in the 1950s, where bartender Ramón Marrero claims to have created it at the Caribe Hilton Hotel’s Beachcomber Bar. Inspired by the vibrant flavors of the island, Marrero mixed rum, coconut cream, and pineapple juice, resulting in a refreshing blend that captured the essence of paradise.

The Old Fashioned – A Timeless Classic

The Old Fashioned is a cocktail that pays homage to the golden era of mixology. Its name reflects its traditional preparation method and showcases its timeless appeal. The cocktail’s origins can be traced back to the early 19th century, making it one of the oldest known mixed drinks. The original recipe called for spirits, sugar, water, and bitters, often served with a twist of citrus peel. As cocktail culture evolved, the Old Fashioned endured, and its simplicity and elegance continue to charm cocktail enthusiasts to this day.


Next time you sip on a Mojito, Martini, Margarita, Cosmopolitan, Negroni, Piña Colada, or Old Fashioned, take a moment to appreciate the fascinating stories behind these classic cocktails. From seafaring adventures to the glitz and glamour of Hollywood, each drink carries a piece of history and culture within its glass. So raise your glass and toast to the creativity, craftsmanship, and innovation that have given us these delightful libations. Cheers!