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What's in a name?

Everything--the meaning, the magic, the legend, the lure. A drink by any name would be tasty, but would it be as tempting? Would an "Injured Matilda" evoke the same dash as a "Bloody Mary"? Would "alcohol and quinine" sound as chic as "gin and tonic"? A drink's name creates the mood, mirrors the style and often tells its origins. But, while we feel the mood and recognize the style, most of us don't know how our favorite drinks got their names. Therein lies a story.

The source of the DAIQUIRI, for instance, was the Daiquiri iron mines in Cuba around the turn of the century, when foreign engineers drank a mixture of light rum, lime juice and sugar to ward off tropical fevers. Evidently, the drink did keep the fevers down while it kept the spirits up. As modifications on the theme multiplied to include banana, strawberry and frozen varieties, a local preventive medicine became a worldwide pleasure.

The source of GIN AND TONIC was the Far East. The time: the 1800s. The cast: the British Army. The impetus: another disease--this time it was malaria, in an age when the only means of fighting it was quinine, a bitter remedy indeed. But the addition of gin, the men discovered, helped the medicine go down easier. By the 20th century, the cure became a cosmopolitan libation. And by the 1920s, GIN AND TONIC was one of the world's most popular cocktails.

The other most popular cocktail was the MARTINI. An American creation, the drink probably dates back to the 1880s when Jerry Thomas, a bartender in San Francisco, mixed gin and sweet vermouth for a weary traveler on his way to Martinez, a small town about 40 miles away. The drink to Martinez became the MARTINI. Over the decades, vodka made a big splash in this country and challenged gin as the MARTINI's prime pleasure. It was vodka's taste-free neutrality that made it so easily adaptable; although, as one Russian explained, "Vodka is not tasteless; it merely lacks flavor."

That lack of flavor has taken vodka a long way. Consider the SCREWDRIVER. It seems a group of American oil rig workers in the Middle East were given a large supply of canned orange juice as a substitute for bad local water. One day, to spice up the juice, the men added vodka. Because they were out in the field rather than at home or in a bar, they stirred the mixture with the utensil nearest at hand--you guessed it--the screwdriver that hung from their belts.

But vodka's finest moment may be the BLOODY MARY. It was born in France and called the "Bucket of Blood," after a nightclub of that name. The name was changed to "Red Snapper"--thought to be more refined--until someone decided there was something fishy about it and renamed it "Morning Glory," because it was originally created as a drink to help face the morning after. That was all before George Jessel, an American entertainer, accidentally spilled the drink on a young woman named Mary and exclaimed, "Well, if you aren't bloody, Mary"--or so he claimed he said.

But then, drinks get their names in many different ways. One day after World War II, a man who had a warehouse of vodka he couldn't sell met a man who had a warehouse of ginger beer he couldn't sell. They put them together, added lime and gave the world the MOSCOW MULE. After the war, it became a status drink of the United States. In Russia, however, where people still prefer their vodka ice-cold, straight and often, there have been no mules reported in Moscow.

The MINT JULEP, created in 1842, is named after Mint Springs near Vicksburg, Miss., the first place anyone thought of sticking a sprig of fresh mint into bourbon.

When Jennie Jerome gave a party at the Manhattan Club in New York City in 1874 for Samuel J. Tilden, the newly elected governor of New York State, she asked the bartender to mix a special drink of bourbon with a lesser portion of sweet vermouth and aromatic bitters. She named the drink after the club. Ms. Jerome went on to become Lady Randolph Churchill and the mother of Sir Winston, and the MANHATTAN went on to become one of the world's most popular drinks.

Whatever spirited pleasure you prefer, there's probably some folklore--actual or exaggerated--to accompany it.
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Title Annotation:cocktail names
Author:Fried, Eunice
Publication:Black Enterprise
Date:Jun 1, 1993
Previous Article:Off the beaten path, cognac is a marvelous blend of old and new.
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