Urban Legends about Cocktails

The history behind some of our favourite cocktails

28 May, 2015 by Reeth Naomi Puri

There are myths about everything. Classic cocktails of the golden era are surrounded by mysticism and fables. Here are the controversial histories of five of our favourite cocktails.

Harveys Wallbanger (orange juice, vodka and Galliano) – It is essentially a screwdriver (orange juice + vodka) with Galliano liqueur floated on top. The most commonly heard story about this drink is of a Californian surfer named Harvey who after having too many cocktails and banging his head on the wall. But it has been a very clever ploy by the manufactures of Galliano to popularise and increase the overall sale of the liquor.

Whiskey Sour (whiskey, lemon juice or orange juice, sugar, a dash of egg white) - The recipe itself was first written down in the 1862 book The Bartender’s Guide by Jerry Thomas. History states that a crude version of this drink was invented by a Vice-Admiral Edward Vernon of England who began mixing alcohol and lemon juice to serve this crew, many of whom were suffering from sea sickness and scurvy. Back then various alcohols were used like rum, gin, brandy and whisky. Accompanied by lemon juice, this drink was effective in battling scurvy as well as the sea sickness that plagued the sailors. The drink caught in no time and evolved over time. The addition of egg white to this drink during this evolution added body.

Mojito (white rum, sugar syrup, lime juice, mint and sparkling water) - This drink originated from Havana. The origin is often debated but is most likely traced back to the 16th century to the drink called "El Draque", after Admiral Sir Francis Drake. After his crew was hit by an outbreak of scurvy they turned to the local people of that region for their indigenous remedies. The ingredients were a crude form of rum from sugar cane, tropical limes, sugarcane juice and mint. Since the liqueur was harsh and the limes were too sour the mint and sugarcane were helpful in masking the taste.

Gin and Tonic (gin, tonic water and a slice of lemon) - It was introduced to the world by the army of the British East India Company. In India malaria was a persistent problem and it had been discovered in the 1700s that quinine could be used to prevent and treat the disease. The taste, however, was very bitter and unpleasant, so the British officers took to adding a mixture of water, sugar, lime and gin to the quinine in order to make it more drinkable. Today tonic water contains virtually no quinine, is usually sweetened leaving only a hint of bitterness.

Pina Colada (rum, pineapple and coconut cream)The national drink of Puerto Rico was popularised to boost the sales of a brand of coconut cream called ‘Coco Lopez’. Don Ramon Lopez was then the owner of the manufacturing company. The drink came into existence after he hosted a promotional completion in which bartenders were to come up with a cocktail using the coconut cream as a key ingredient. The winning drink of course was the now famous Pina Colada.

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