The Bellini is named after an Italian painter.
In 1948, when Giuseppe Cipriani — owner of Harry’s Bar in Venice — first mixed white peach puree with Prosecco, the color reminded him of the pink hue in a particular painting. And so he named the drink after the artist of that painting, 15th-century Venetian Giovanni Bellini. (Coincidentally, Ernest Hemingway hung out at Harry’s Bar and referred to the spot in his book Over the River and Into the Trees, increasing the bar’s popularity and spreading the gospel of the Bellini.) Tell that story at brunch and everyone will agree that you deserve another round.
Mint juleps were originally a breakfast drink.
The mint julep’s oldest relative is the Arabic julab, a medicinal drink made with water and rose petals. Europeans eventually traded that in for mint and booze. And later, Americans added bourbon whiskey into the mix. In 1803, the British historian John Davis was the first to record the mint julep’s existence in print, defining it as a morning drink. So when you drink mint juleps before noon, just cite history and say, “British historian John Davis wrote that this is how the Virginian farmers did it back in 1803.” And everyone will understand why whiskey before noon is smart.
Sangrias became a thing when water was dirty and wine was cheap.
Validate your 11 a.m. sangria as a healthier option than water. In the Middle Ages, booze was the safest thing to drink since alcohol kills bacteria in contaminated liquids. To give their drinks a punch, most Europeans would add spices, fruits, and brandy to their wine. One variation on that was the Spanish sangria, named after the bloody color of red wine. The drink made its way stateside when Spain served cups of sangria at the 1964 World’s Fair.
The margarita is named after either an actress or a socialite.
A lot of people claim to have invented the margarita. One story is that a man named Carlos Herrera invented the drink in Tijuana in 1938 after he allegedly made it for an aspiring actress named Marjorie King. She was allergic to all hard liquors except tequila, so Herrera combined the elements of a tequila shot — salt and lime — and poured it over ice.
Another claimant to the title was a Dallas socialite Margarita Sames, who is said to have made the eponymous drink at her Acapulco vacation home in 1948. Whomever it was, the world slurs a big fat “thank you.”
Alfred Hitchcock drank mimosas.
A reminder to macho men who might be shy about a pastel brunch drink in a flute. Remember: Alfred Hitchcock and other very admirable people drank them in the 1900s.
The mimosa first appeared at the Paris Ritz in 1925, but some believe it was ripped off from a London tavern that served a similar drink called a Buck’s Fizz. Named after the yellow flowers of the mimosa plant (which is perfect because it tastes like Olympian nectar), the drink gained widespread attention from fancy people like Hitchcock and Vanessa Redgrave when food columnist Poppy Canon wrote, “Even in the most sophisticated quarters, you will be considered exceptionally knowledgeable if you order a mimosa.”
The daiquiri exists because of war.
During the Spanish-American War, the U.S. Army invaded Cuba to remove the country from Spanish rule. While there in 1898, American soldiers found a drink recipe made of rum, sugar, and lime. They took the drink back to the States, where they mixed it with ice in a cocktail shaker. This new exotic beverage was named after the Cuban town it came from, Daiquirí. Worth the war? No, probably not. But worth remembering.
Pimm’s Cups were originally digestive aids.
Should anyone ask you why you’re having a Pimm’s Cup, you can say your stomach’s not feeling well. In 1800s London, bar owner James Pimm made a blend of gin, herbs, and liqueurs to create the very first Pimm’s Cup, allegedly served to his customers as a digestive aid. Much like mint juleps at the Kentucky Derby, Pimm’s Cups eventually became ubiquitous at Wimbledon. Today, Pimm’s recipe remains a heavily guarded formula that only six people know. It’s kind of like the KFC Secret Original Recipe, only incredibly better.
The piña colada has been the official beverage of Puerto Rico since 1978.
While the piña colada was definitely first made in Puerto Rico, there are several tales regarding who created it. The most credible story says it was created by Ramon Marrero in 1954 for the Caribe Hilton hotel in San Juan. The most interesting tale credits the pirate Roberto Cofresí with its creation in the 1800s. The recipe allegedly died with him, but the drink is alive and well in hollowed-out pineapples with tiny umbrellas at beach resorts everywhere.
Forget bathtub gin; the mojito is the real drink of Prohibition.
During Prohibition, Havana became the United States’ favorite offshore speakeasy. It was there Americans discovered the original mojito. Cheap rum was so crude that Cuban farmers mixed it with lime juice and sugar to make the alcohol more palatable. The concoction made its way to Havana clubs, where it was glammed up with soda water and ice, making it the refreshing cocktail we know today.