The Origins of 14 Cocktail Names

A cocktail garnished with lime
A cocktail garnished with lime
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The word cocktail is a bit of an etymological puzzle: Originally only a nickname for an animal that rears up when irritated, by the late 1700s it had become another word for a horse with a “cocked” or shortened tail. But how or why it then made the leap to alcoholic mixed drinks in the early 1800s is a mystery.

One theory claims it’s to do with the drinks making you feel energized and sprightly, like an energetic horse, while another suggests it’s because cocktails were popular at the races. Alternatively, the two meanings could be entirely unrelated—one equally plausible explanation is that cocktail might in fact be an anglicized version of the French coquetier, meaning “egg-cup,” which was perhaps once used to serve the libations.

The origins of the names of individual cocktails are often just as tricky to pin down, with rival explanations and rivaling claims of invention often competing against each other. Here are the stories—and theories—behind 14 of your favorite tipples.

1. Bellini

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The pale orange-red color of a classic Bellini cocktail reportedly reminded its inventor—Giuseppe Cipriani, the founder of Venice’s famous Harry’s Bar—of a similar color often used in paintings by the Venetian artist Giovanni Bellini.

2. Mint Julep

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Although nowadays it refers almost exclusively to a cocktail of bourbon whiskey (or, more controversially, brandy) flavored with sugar and mint, the word julep was originally borrowed into English from French as far back as the 1400s to refer to a sweet-tasting or sweetened drink. Before then, it has its earliest origins in the Arabic word for rose-water, julab.

3. Mojito

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Although debate rages over the exact origin of the mojito, according to the Oxford English Dictionary it probably takes its name from mojo, the Spanish name of a Cuban sauce or marinade made with citrus fruit—a mojito is literally a "little mojo."

4. Daiquiri

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Staying in Cuba, a classic daiquiri cocktail—basically a mojito without the mint—is named after the village of Daiquirí on the far southeast coast of the island. Legend has it that the drink was invented by local American mining engineers around the time of the Spanish-American War when they ran out of gin and had to use the local rum instead.

5. Margarita

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Marjorie King, a former Broadway dancer, the singer Peggy (i.e. Margaret) Lee, and Margarita Henkel—the daughter of a former German ambassador to Mexico—are all touted as the possible namesake of the margarita cocktail. But in fact the cocktail might not be named in honor of anyone at all—margarita is the Spanish word for “daisy,” and so one theory claims the drink was simply a variation of an earlier Texan cocktail called the “tequila daisy.”

6. Manhattan

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Although accounts of the event are debatable, legend has it that the Manhattan cocktail was specially invented for a banquet hosted by Lady Randolf (mother of Winston) Churchill at the trendy Manhattan Club in New York in the late 1800s. The name Manhattan was already in use long before then, however, as the name of a different drink from the modern Manhattan cocktail. And at the time this supposed party took place, Lady Randolph was very pregnant with Winston, and living in England. So the real origin is probably lost to time.

7. Rob Roy

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A Manhattan made with Scotch rather than Canadian whisky is a Rob Roy. It was originally invented at New York’s Waldorf Astoria Hotel in 1894 to celebrate the Broadway premiere of an operetta loosely based on the life of the Scottish folk hero Rob Roy.

8. Old Fashioned

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When it became popular in the late 1800s to introduce liqueurs into cocktail recipes, the older, more basic recipes that omitted them—and in particular this classic mix of whiskey and bitters—became known as “old fashioned” cocktails.

9. Tom Collins

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A John Collins is a mixture of London dry gin, lemon, sugar, and soda. Replace the London gin with Old Tom gin, and you have a Tom Collins. The Collins part is said to come from a 19th century headwaiter known as John Collins, who worked at Limmer's Hotel and Coffee House and is thought to be the inventor of the drink. The Tom part may also have been influenced by an 1874 hoax often perpetrated at bars.

10. Mai Tai

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Invented at a bar in California in the 1940s, maitai means “good” or “nice” in Tahitian …

11. Piña Colada

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… while piña colada means “strained pineapple” in Spanish, a reference to the drink’s fruity base.

12. Sidecar

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Although the origins of the sidecar cocktail are hazy, one story claims that it was invented in Paris just after World War I by an American Army captain who could often be seen being driven around the city in a motorcycle sidecar.

13. Singapore Sling

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Sling is a general name for any sweetened and flavored drink made from a spirit base. The Singapore sling was invented in the early 1900s at the famous Raffles Hotel in Singapore by an acclaimed barman named Ngiam Tong Boon.

14. Mimosa

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The mimosa takes its name from the mimosa plant, Acacia dealbata, which produces bright orange-yellow flowers the same color as mixed champagne and orange juice.

A version of this list first ran in 2015.

Amazon's Under-the-Radar Coupon Page Features Deals on Home Goods, Electronics, and Groceries

Stock Catalog, Flickr // CC BY 2.0
Stock Catalog, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

Now that Prime Day is over, and with Black Friday and Cyber Monday still a few weeks away, online deals may seem harder to come by. And while it can be a hassle to scour the internet for promo codes, buy-one-get-one deals, and flash sales, Amazon actually has an extensive coupon page you might not know about that features deals to look through every day.

As pointed out by People, the coupon page breaks deals down by categories, like electronics, home & kitchen, and groceries (the coupons even work with SNAP benefits). Since most of the deals revolve around the essentials, it's easy to stock up on items like Cottonelle toilet paper, Tide Pods, Cascade dishwasher detergent, and a 50 pack of surgical masks whenever you're running low.

But the low prices don't just stop at necessities. If you’re looking for the best deal on headphones, all you have to do is go to the electronics coupon page and it will bring up a deal on these COWIN E7 PRO noise-canceling headphones, which are now $80, thanks to a $10 coupon you could have missed.

Alternatively, if you are looking for deals on specific brands, you can search for their coupons from the page. So if you've had your eye on the Homall S-Racer gaming chair, you’ll find there's currently a coupon that saves you 5 percent, thanks to a simple search.

To discover all the deals you have been missing out on, head over to the Amazon Coupons page.

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Remembering the Deadly London Beer Flood of 1814

London's Horseshoe Brewery
London's Horseshoe Brewery
Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons

In the fall of 1814, one of history's most bizarre disasters befell London when a 15-foot wave of beer flooded an entire neighborhood and left eight people dead.

The Horse Shoe Brewery on Tottenham Court Road in London boasted a massive 22-foot-tall vat that held some 160,000 gallons of dark porter. On October 17, 1814, one of the metal hoops meant to secure it snapped, and the wooden vat succumbed to the immense pressure of all that fermenting brew. The gushing beer smashed open the brewery's other vats, resulting in a raging sea of beer that burst forth from the building.

Over 1 million liters of beer flooded out onto the road and raced through the St. Giles neighborhood. The area was crammed with crowded slums, and many inhabitants couldn't escape in time. According to The Independent: "Hannah Banfield, a little girl, was taking tea with her mother, Mary, at their house in New Street when the deluge hit. Both were swept away in the current, and perished."

Others who were gathered in a cellar for a wake were caught by surprise by the flood and drowned in beer. A wall of a nearby pub crumbled and crushed a 14-year-old girl who was standing next to it. In total, eight people perished in the accident.

Unsubstantiated rumors persist that rowdy locals brought pots and pans to the river of beer in an attempt to round up free drinks. In reality though, the citizens of St. Giles were lauded in the press for their help with the rescue efforts, keeping quiet in the aftermath in order to help listen for the screams of their trapped neighbors.

This story has been updated for 2020.