How five popular drinks got their names

Want to get a cheap laugh? Walk up to the bar and say “Bartender, I’ll have a Sex on the Beach, please.” Side-splitting and knee-slapping humor, indeed.

What’s in a name? well, when it comes to our favorite drinks, a lot. Many drinks are named for the place they were invented, like the “Manhattan”, “Long Island Ice Tea”, and the “Daquiri” (Daquiri, Cuba). Some are named for their ingredients, which is pretty boring, but descriptive. Witness “7 & 7”, “Jack and Coke”, “Lemon Drop”.

Then there are those cocktails with more interesting origins. Here are five.

One of the most popular drinks in the world, the Screwdriver can serve as a base for many other popular drinks. The origins of the cocktail are clandestine. In the 1950s, workers on oil rigs in the Persian Gulf would work incredibly long and dangerous hours. So, of course they relieved the tedium with alcohol. Apparently, a few of them, some sources say a mix of Turks, Serbs, Albanians, American engineers, and maybe a Greek or two, poured orange juice and vodka into cans while working on the rigs. The name came from the workers using a screwdriver to stir their secret alcoholic elixir.

Outside the US, it is often referred to as “vodka and orange”, but no matter where you order it, the two base ingredients are the same. Variations include: the “Poor Man’s Screwdriver” (substitute Sunny D for orange juice); the “Tang Banger” (use TANG); the “Brass Monkey” (a traditional Screwdriver with dark rum added); and the popular “Harvey Wallbanger” (splash some Galliano on top).

2 ounces vodka
5 ounces fresh orange juice
Slice of orange

Fuzzy Navel
We have to turn our attention to an unlikely place to learn the origins of this drink. At the Wagon Tongue Bar in Omaha, Nebraska, the Fuzzy Navel was born in the 1980s. The 80’s were a time of renewed interest in highballs, cocktails, and mixed drinks. A liquor distributor named Jack Sherman came up with the concoction, made by combining peach schnapps and orange juice. “Fuzzy” refers to the peach, and “navel” to the orange. A  New York Times food and drink critic described the ensuing craze as “a kind of cult, rallying points for young drinkers in search of fun and not too picky about taste”.

By adding vodka to the fuzzy navel you turn the Fuzzy Navel into a “Hairy Navel”, the “hair” referring to the increased strength of alcohol in the drink.

1 1/2 ounces peach schnapps
orange juice to fill

Pour the peach schnapps into a highball glass filled with ice cubes, top with orange juice, stir well.

Tom Collins
Talk about an interesting tale, the story of how Tom Collins came about is bizarre and traces back to a much different time in American society.

In Pennsylvania in the 19th century, Tom Collins was the name given to a fictional bogeyman who gossiped about locals. Patrons in pubs and restaurants would sprinkle their conversation with “Have you seen Tom Collins?” And, eventually, to be “known by Tom Collins” was to imply that someone was talking about that person. Newspapers ran hoax stories claiming to be about the real Tom Collins, who invariably was in trouble of some sort. It became so popular that “Tom Collins folk songs” were written and performed on stages all over the east coast. By the mid-1870s Tom Collins had a secure place in American folk lore.

The first confirmation of a Tom Collins drink in print was in the “Bartender’s Guide”, published in 1876 by famous bartender Jerry Thomas. With his flashy methods of mixing cocktails (twirling glasses, juggling bottles, etc.) Thomas popularized the “Tom Collins” and soon it spread throughout the U.S.

2 ounces gin
1 ounces lemon juice
1 tsp superfine sugar
3 ounces club soda
1 maraschino cherry
1 slice orange

In a shaker half-filled with ice cubes, combine the gin, lemon juice, and sugar. Shake well. Strain into a collins glass almost filled with ice cubes. Add the club soda. Stir and garnish with the cherry and the orange slice.

Some claim this popular drink is named for a beautiful woman who broke a bartender’s heart. Though that sounds gut-wrenchingly poetic, it’s probably hokum. Bartender Don Carlos Orozco has the strongest claim of ownership. In his cantina in  Ensanada, Mexico, in 1941, Orozco was experimenting with ingredients, when a local woman named Margarita Henkel, the daughter of a prominent official, ambled in. Henkel gladly slurped up one of Orozco’s mixtures. When she expressed satisfaction and other patrons began to request the same, the bartender dubbed it “Margarita” after the woman. The first Margarita’s were equal parts tequila, orange liqueur and lime, served over ice in a salt-rimmed glass. However, some historians (who spend their time searching for the birth of drinks?) argue that the Margarita is nothing more than an earlier American drink with a twist. “The Daisy” had the same ingredients except it used brandy instead of tequila. It debuted sometime in the 1930s. Whoever invented it, we’re glad it was or there would be millions of women who wouldn’t know what to order at Mexican restaurants.

1 ounce tequila
dash of Triple Sec
juice of 1/2 lime or lemon

Pour over crushed ice, stir. Rub the rim of a stem glass with rind of lemon or lime, spin in salt—pour, and sip.

White Russian
Like other vodka-based drinks, the White Russian gets its’ name not because it is Russian in origin, but because vodka is associated heavily with Russia. The White Russian is actually a derivative of the Black Russian, which first appeared popularly in 1949. The addition of cream makes a Black Russian a White Russian. So, just like zebras started out black, all White Russians are Black until we spill in the creme.

2 ounces vodka
1 ounces coffee liqueur
light cream


  1. Very interesting !!!! I heard something similar about the screwdrivers name origin.Orange juice was delivered to the oil rigs in a large metal cans and for lack of a can opener,a ( church key) the workers used a screwdriver to punch holes in the top of the can, to mix the OJ with their vodka,it thus became a screwdriver,and so it goes

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