9 drinks named after people
Not unlike certain kinds of food, sometimes people end up being strongly associated with certain drinks, especially cocktails. Usually, the famous are those who end up with their name attached, even if the drink was not their own invention. This is the case with several of the drinks below. However, it seems as though other figures simply had a flash of inspiration and lent their names to their creations.
How did this popular refreshment of lemonade and iced tea end up named after one of the golfing greats? Similar to ‘Shirley Temple’, it’s hard to deny that the drink is named after Arnold Palmer (1929–), one of the all-time most successful golfers on the PGA Tour, despite the fact that the origin story is somewhat obscure. It certainly doesn’t help that the stories told by Palmer himself have been rather vague. According to the golfing legend, he had long been in the habit of mixing iced tea and lemonade together at home, when he ordered the drink either at a bar in Palm Springs, California or at a bar at the 1960 US Open in Denver, Colorado, and was overheard by a woman, who went on to order ‘the Palmer drink’. Presumably, the name of the drink spread from there. Elsewhere, this mix of iced tea and lemonade is known as a ‘half and half’.
In a feat rare not only in the world of words, but also in the world of cuisine, Giuseppe Cipriani both successfully created and then named two lasting culinary inventions of the 20th century. The owner and proprietor of Harry’s Bar in Venice, Cipriani chose the names wisely, inspired by the exhibits of two famous painters. He named his cocktail of peach juice mixed with sparkling wine after painter Giovanni Bellini (1430–1516) and his dish of thin, marinated slices of raw beef or venison with olive oil and lemon juice after painter Vittore Carpaccio (1465–1525), the latter thanks to the vivid red coloring used in his work.
This drink is another one without a definite origin. While many theories have been floated as to the ‘Alexander’ for whom this drink of brandy, chocolate liqueur, and cream is named, one seems to stick more than the others. Researcher Barry Popik has uncovered a newspaper column by infamous New York journalist Walter Winchell from 1929 that recounts the story of how Troy Alexander, bartender at popular pre-Prohibition New York restaurant Rector’s, invented the drink. While this may be true, Popik observes that further evidence is needed to bolster that claim. For example, the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) cites an ‘Alexander’ cocktail, a mix of whisky and Benedictine, from as early as 1910.
fresh pineapple juice
Named after silent film star Mary Pickford 1892–1979), co-founder of the film studio United Artists, the drink typically consists of white rum, fresh pineapple juice, grenadine, and Maraschino liqueur. Although it has not been verified, the story is often told that the drink was invented for her at a hotel in Havana, Cuba, while on vacation with husband Douglas Fairbanks and Charlie Chaplin.
Another drink whose creator is somewhat in dispute, the ‘Negroni’, composed of gin, vermouth, and Campari, seems to have been invented by Italian aristocrat Count Camillo Negroni. Legend has it that Negroni was ordering his favorite drink, an Americano (Campari, sweet vermouth, and club soda) at a café in Florence at some point in the early- to mid-20th century, when he had the idea to make the drink stronger by switching out the club soda for gin. One of the earliest documented appearances of the drink in English comes from actor and director Orson Welles, who wrote of the newly-discovered drink while shooting the 1949 film Black Magic in Rome: ‘The bitters are excellent for your liver, the gin is bad for you. They balance each other.’
whisky or gin
One of the most famous eponymous cocktails in history is no doubt the rickey, often known as the gin rickey. Rickey was Colonel Joseph K. Rickey (1842–1903), a US politician who, as the story goes, invented the drink at a bar in Washington, DC at some point in the late 19th century. The Oxford English Dictionary (OED) has dated a connection between the drink and the man as far back as 1890. As for the drink that launched Rickey into the lexicon, it was a twist on the typical whisky or gin with carbonated water, by the addition of lime juice. Today, nonalcoholic drinks made with club soda are also sometimes referred to as rickeys.
(splash of) cranberry juice
The matriarch of the Kennedy family – wife of Joseph Kennedy and mother of President John F. Kennedy – Rose Kennedy (1890–1995) was a philanthropist and prominent socialite in Boston. The story of exactly why this drink became associated with her is not known, but her name remains attached to this popular drink of vodka, club soda, and a splash of cranberry juice to this day.
lemon-lime or ginger ale soda
(splash of) grenadine
Probably the best known of all the eponymous drinks out there, this non-alcoholic cocktail named after Shirley Temple Black (1928–2014), US ambassador and former child actress, owes at least some of its success to the cuteness of its origin story. According to several accounts, at the height of her show biz career, Temple was out to dinner in Los Angeles (the restaurant is disputed) with her parents and insisted on also being served a ‘cocktail’. Acquiescing to the young star’s demands, the waiter (or someone else on the staff) mixed up a mocktail of lemon-lime or ginger ale soda, a splash of grenadine, and a maraschino cherry. The ‘boy’ version of the drink is usually known as a ‘Roy Rogers’, occasionally substituting cola for the lemon-lime or ginger ale soda, named for Roy Rogers (1911–1998), who was, along with Gene Autry, one of the great ‘cowboy actors’ of the mid-20th century. Given that Rogers’s fame only really blossomed in the 1940s, and that no origin story of Rogers requesting such a drink seems to exist, it seems likely that this mocktail followed the invention of the Shirley Temple.
lemon or lime juice
The origin of the Tom Collins is a bit of a mystery. The evidence suggests that there was never anyone named ‘Tom Collins’ who lent his name to this drink of gin, soda water, sugar, and lemon or lime juice. Some have tried to trace the surname ‘Collins’ to John Collins, a hotel waiter at Limmer’s Hotel in London during the mid-19th century, although this is not well-supported by evidence. Eventually, the gin-based cocktail, with the name ‘John Collins’ in tow, traveled across the Atlantic, where the ‘John’ was lopped off and replaced with ‘Tom’. One possibility for the replacement is that ‘Old Tom’ was 19th-century slang for gin.