There was a time before drink books listed the #1, #2, #3, etc. versions of drinks. The reason is simple – before about 1910, drink books grouped drink recipes by types, or families, of drinks. After then, and especially after prohibition, the mistaken idea that all drinks were cocktails caused them all to be lumped together alphabetically.
The everything’s-a-cocktail-lined-up-alphabetically phenomenon led to drinks-understanding being replaced by recipe-memorization. It also meant that bartenders could no longer look into a book to find out if there were a cocktail, or daisy, or any other specifically desired type of drink based on genever and modified by maraschino, for example. This sort of search by the type and essence of a drink is easily accomplished in my own book. It also has an alphabetical index for name searches. That is but one reason to buy it now at http://www.elementalmixology.com.
In most of the simple-minded alphabetical books, any drink that the bartender doesn’t know the name of might as well not exist. This is why I often encounter, or read of, new drinks having been ‘invented’ that are actually old drinks. An otherwise competent bartender once presented what he thought was his creation to me at a new drinks competition that I was judging. The only thing new about it was his name for it. Since it was neither new nor his drink, he was not even considered for the winning spot – or its prize of cash.
Beyond that, forcing all drinks to take on the family name of ‘cocktail’ has stripped drinks of their own family names (or surnames) and has led to the ignorant and unimaginative numbering system being applied to drinks of different types that happen to have the same first names (or given names).
That wasn’t always the case. Look at George Kappeler’s excellent 1895 book, Modern American Drinks. In it he presents the well-known Manhattan Cocktail in the cocktail section of the book:
“Manhattan Cocktail. Fill mixing-glass half-full fine ice, add two dashes gum-syrup, two dashes Peyschaud [sic] or Angostura bitters, one half-jigger Italian vermouth, one half-jigger whiskey. Mix, strain into cocktail glass. Add a piece of lemon-peel or a cherry.”
But, in the punch section of the book, Kappeler gives another drink with the same given name, but a different surname.
“Manhattan Punch. The juice of half a lemon in a mixing glass, add half a tablespoonful fine sugar, two dashes Angostura bitters, one-half jigger whiskey, one-half jigger French vermouth; shake well, serve on ice in long glass, trim with fruit. Sip with straws.”
It is clear that to Kappeler, the same liquors and bitters that would be stirred together with ice to make the Manhattan Cocktail could be shaken with lemon juice and ice to make a punch. Now, to tell the truth, I have never made, or otherwise tried, the Manhattan Punch. I wouldn’t be surprised if it turned out to be less-than-delicious. But the interesting point is that, if surnames are used, more than one drink may flourish under the same given name – just like in the case of people. I suppose that if, for some reason, the use of surnames were abandoned when applied to people, we might have to resort to John #1, John #2, John #3, etc. But, would anyone really want that?
I have heard and read opinions about which of the drinks called Cosmopolitan, Corpse Reviver, Millionaire, and others, should be considered ‘the definitive one.’ How sad this is. Of the multiple people one may know with the same given name, what reason is there to consider any of them ‘the definitive one?’ Should Abraham Lincoln be forgotten and set aside in favor of the mythical Abraham of the Jewish scriptures, or vice-versa?
There have been many, unrelated drinks with the given name of ‘cosmopolitan.’ As a name, it apparently occurred to a number of people in different places and times. Though not the oldest, I will begin with those that are slings – including true cocktails. In 1927, a recipe for a “Cosmopolitan” (without any surname) was published in the book Barflies and Cocktails. The book was essentially Harry McElhone’s 1922 book, The ABC’s of Mixing Cocktails with illustrations and new text by others added at the end. The “Cosmopolitan” was in the new material at the end of the text that was contributed by Arthur Moss. The fall of the cocktail had begun around 1910, when the earliest sources are found using the name for any drink served ‘up’ in a goblet. Many of the same sources omit the bitters in otherwise true cocktail recipes that had previously only ever been published as explicitly containing them. Since Moss’ Cosmopolitan was a cocktail in every key feature except containing bitters, I felt it was no problem to add them.
The next recipe for a sling bearing the given name of ‘cosmopolitan’ was the Cosmopolitan Cocktail published in the book, American Travelling Mixologists, in 1934. This one was published as a cocktail, containing bitters from its very birth.
Also in the same source was another drink called “Cosmopolitan” that happens to be a cup. Whereas the cocktail is a bittered sling, the cup is a wine-based sling.
The oldest punch by the name, that I know of, was called the “Cosmopolitan Punch” in George Kappeler’s 1895 book, Modern American Drinks.
Moving forward to 1934, a hot punch under the name “Cosmopolitan” was just one of the several drinks by the name found in American Travelling Mixologists.
Also in American Travelling Mixologists, is found a “Cosmopolitan Punch.” Unlike Kappeler’s drink of the same name, it is a charged punch (or a Collins if made by the individual portion).
When a punch is made ‘short’ (without added liquid water or water-based products) it will probably be either a sour served ‘up’ in a goblet, or a fix served ‘down’ with ice in a tumbler. A sour made fancy by being at least partially sweetened with liqueur as a modifying ingredient has been called a daisy in the nineteenth century (margarita means ‘daisy’ in Spanish, and the famous drink by that name is exactly this type of drink). The most famous drink bearing the given name of “cosmopolitan” is also a daisy.
Where a daisy is a sour made fancy by liqueur, a lion is a sour made fancy by both liqueur and nectar or flavored syrup. Drinks fitting this description have been given the ‘lion’ surname as far back as 1862. The drink that was several years ago touted as a rediscovery of “the 1926 Cosmopolitan” turns out to be a lion. It is actually not found in any published work from 1926. I believe that the person who suggested that it was from 1926 made a simple, honest mistake in remembering where he had found the recipe. It was actually first published in American Travelling Mixologists in 1934.
So when it comes to the “cosmopolitan” given name, there is a long history of drinks that are mostly unrelated. We can make, enjoy and talk about the Cosmopolitan Cocktail, the Cosmopolitan Cup, the Cosmopolitan Punch, the Cosmopolitan Collins, the Cosmopolitan Daisy and the Cosmopolitan Lion as the disparate drinks they are. There is no more reason to see them as related, or to reduce them to a single identity, than there would be to do so with John Locke, John Adams, John Lewis, John Belushi and John Candy.
Now, here are two of the handful of different drinks that happen to have the same given name of “corpse reviver.”
And finally, here are a collection of drinks that all have, or have had, the given name of “millionaire.”
Surnames matter in both people and drinks. To know the surname that traditional, pre-prohibition American mixology would have applied to any drink is both suggestive of the qualities that will make it satisfying, and a good way to avoid confusion without resorting to the silly #1, #2, #3 system.
Now make up a new drink and give it a traditional surname. If it turns out to be any good, tell me about it. If I know the surname of your drink, and you tell me just a little bit about the ingredients, I will be able to make it without needing a detailed recipe. That’s the power of traditional drink surnames.