The Fascinating History Behind The World’s Most Iconic Cocktails

Thursday the 5th of July, 2018

Nothing gets you in the mood for a night out more than that first sip of a perfectly shaken cocktail.

Here at Alma de Cuba, we’re obsessed with perfecting our cocktail recipes – that’s why our trained mixologists are dedicated to producing mouth-watering drinks with every order.

And what’s key to a perfect cocktail? Knowing its history, of course.

Even with the most complex concoction, there’s often a much simpler original recipes at the heart of the drink.

You might be surprised to find that many cocktails have a murky history, often inspired by times of hardship when delectable ingredients were hard to come-by.

Read on to discover the incredible tales behind some of our favourite classic cocktails.

Who invented cocktails?

While humans have been mixing sweeteners and flavor-disguisers with unsavory alcohol for hundreds of years, two men have been attributed with putting cocktails on the menu for the modern day: Connecticut-born Jerry Thomas and Gloucestershire-bred Harry Craddock.

Without these two men, there’s a chance the delicious delicacies enjoyed so much would have been lost to the backwaters of time.

Jerry Thomas was an American bartender who operated saloon bars in New York City during the 19th century. Known as the ‘father of mixology’, Jerry perfected the art of cocktails and made them a must-have drink for America’s party-goers.

His guide to mixology, Bar-Tender’s Guide, was published in 1862 and became a seminal work on the principles of cocktail mixing, which is still a core text for wannabe mixologists today.

Harry Craddock was bartender of The Savoy Hotel American Bar from 1920. Having worked in iconic venues including Cleveland’s Hollenden Hotel and New York’s Knickerbocker Hotel, Craddock returned to the UK during prohibition and made The Savoy a must-visit cocktail hotspot. He invented legendary cocktail classics including the Copse Reviver #2 and the White Lady.

The History of Iconic Cocktails

The Mojito

cocktail history

An Alma de Cuba Mojito

What’s in it? The Alma de Cuba Mojito is the ultimate Cuban concoction. We mix our rum with gomme syrup, the freshest of lime juice and mint leaves before topping off with soda.

The History The Oxford English Dictionary lists the origins of the word Mojito as coming from the Spanish word ‘Mojo’, meaning a Cuban sauce made from citrus fruit. Mojito literally translates as ‘’a little mojo”. Rumour has it this refreshing cocktail was born from necessity –  to disguise the taste of rotgut rum.

This uninspiringly- named liquor was cheap alcohol, often brewed at home in Latin America, Cuba and the Caribbean, that was strong but tasted terrible.  To hide its disgusting taste, drinkers would add lime, sugarcane juice and a whole lot of mint in an attempt to make a more palatable drink. Mojitos supposedly then gained popularity when booze-deprived Americans vacationed to Cuba during prohibition and indulged on this illicit alcoholic drink.

The Daiquiri

cocktail history

An Alma de Cuba Strawberry Daquiri

What’s in it? There’s plenty of opportunities to embellish a Daiquiri with flavours like strawberry, raspberry and pineapple. But we’re also a fan of a straight-up classic D, blending rum, gomme syrup and fresh lime for a deliciously sharp concoction. Whatever your Daiquiri preference, we can mix it up at Alma de Cuba.

The History The Daiquiri has a conflicting history. Some people claim it was born in wartime America, when rations made many spirits hard to come by in the USA. President Roosevelt’s ‘Good Neighbour’ policy, encouraging trade with Latin America, ensured the only regularly supplied alcohol was rum.

Other people argue that it was during the Spanish-American war in 1898 that the drink was invented by a few American mining engineers.

Stationed in the small village of Daiquirí on the far southeastern coast of Cuba, the engineers supposedly ran out of gin and started serving up rum as a substitute, naming their new-found tipple after the town they were in.

Whatever the story, the original daiquiri bears little resemblance to the exotic flavours of today. Instead, it had three simple ingredients: light rum, lime juice and a dash of syrup.

The Piña Colada

cocktail history

Source: Flickr | Rubixcuben

What’s in it? If you like Piña Coladas and getting caught in the rain… this classic cocktail is so beloved that it even has a song dedicated to its creamy fruitiness. At Alma De Cuba, we keep our tropical tipple just as it should be with rum, Koko Kanu, the original Coco López, pineapple juice and a touch of cream.

The History The Piña Colada has a history steeped in corporate entrepreneurship. Rumour has it that cunning businessman Ramón López Irizarry was trying to figure out a way to sell his cream of coconut drink, Coco López. Recognising the popularity of cocktail bars, López decided to give his product out to bartenders and asked them to experiment with it.

He struck gold: one unnamed bartender mixed up the cream of coconut with pineapple juice and rum, creating the now famous Piña Colada. The cocktail became a firm classic, and Ramón’s Coco López is still sold today.

The Martini

cocktail history

Source: Wiki Commons

What’s in it? A Martini is a classic we just can’t get enough of. In fact, here at Alma we love it so much we’ve dedicated a whole page of our menu to the decadent concoctions we’ve been inspired to make from the simple drink.

Choose from Lycheetini, watermelon or violet flavours, the notorious espresso variety or the classic English and French Martinis. All of them start with the basic recipe of vodka or gin, a sweet syrup and a fruit juice.

The History James Bond’s favourite tipple has a murky history. Nobody’s quite sure where this elegant cocktail comes from.

One popular legend suggests that the drink was born when a miner in the town of Martinez, California asked for a special celebratory beverage after a successful day’s gold panning.

The bartender’s impromptu concoction was so delicious that everyone started ordering it and the popular drink took on the name of the town.

Some people cite a less romantic origin story, claiming the history of the classic cocktail comes down to  simple branding. Martini & Rossi was a brand of Italian Sweet Vermouth first produced in 1863 and it seems logical that a weary customer looking for a favourite drink would ask the bartender for a gin and Martini, later abbreviating it to just Martini.

Which do you think sounds most plausible?

Amaretto Sour

cocktail history

Source: Flickr | Edsel Little

What’s in it? Classics are made to be played with, so our salacious bartenders have come up with the incredible Fig and Amaretto Sour. Containing Disaronno, eggs whites and fresh lemon, the edition of fig liqueur makes this cocktail a dastardly choice for an Alma drinker.

The History Sadly, the origin story of the Amaretto Sour seems to have been lost in time.

But what we do know it that the history of putting egg whites into a drink is long and fascinating.

We’ve been popping eggs in alcoholic concoctions since the 17th century. An old recipe for an English punch called ‘Lambswool’ called for warm ale or mulled wine, sugar, nutmeg, crab apples and eggs.

It’s thought that eggs were originally added because of their nutritional value, but nowadays an eggy addition is all about enriching the texture of a cocktail.

Bellini

cocktail history

Source: Flickr | http://winedharma.com/en/dharmag/june-2016/bellini-cocktail-recipe-how-make-one-best-italian-cocktail

What’s in it? At Alma, we serve our classic Bellini with fruit puree and fruit liqueur, all topped off with some dazzling prosecco. Simple, but decadent.

The History The Bellini was invented between 1934 and 1948 at the famous Harry’s Bar in Venice (a favorite haunt of Ernest Hemmingway and Orson Welles).

The founder, Giuseppe Cipriani, named his new concoction a Bellini because the unique pink colour of the drink reminded him of the toga of a saint in a painting by 15th century Venetian artist Giovanni Bellini.

cocktail history

Source: Harry’s Bar Venice | Cipriani.com

The breakfast-time favourite started as a seasonal specialty.

But when the popularity of the drink increased both in Venice, and at the bar’s sister venue in New York City, a crafty French businessman began shipping fresh white peach puree to both locations regularly, cementing the Bellini as a year-round favourite.

Thirsty to taste some of these incredible drinks? If you fancy sinking some cocktails with us over at Alma, reserve a booth today or book a table and enjoy our incredible dinner menu.

Call  0151 305 3744.

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