There’s nothing more fun than trying to create a new cocktail that no one has ever made before.
Maybe you have just gotten a new bottle of bitters or foraged the ingredients for a new syrup, and before you know it, that mystical of all mistresses, inspiration, has begun to take hold. So you spend the rest of the day fiddling with measurements and other ingredients until that magic moment when the ingredients are perfectly balanced, and the flavours just click.
Whether you are basing this new concoction on an existing drink you know well or simply throwing a few flavours together and seeing if they work, creating a cocktail from scratch can be as fiddly and time-consuming as it is rewarding.
But if you think the hours that you toiled over a mixing glass means that the hard part is now over, then think again. You are now faced with a far greater challenge because now you have the whole new agony of trying actually to name it.
You might think that naming a drink would really be the easy part, but there really is a lot more to it than you might first expect. There is a lot you probably want the name to express about your drink.
You want it to be concise, memorable and pronounceable. You probably want it to be inviting, have a degree of gravitas and perhaps an element of whimsy. You want it to express your concept and display a clear creative purpose. You want it to be easily remembered and never forgotten.
If you can do all of these things, then you have a name that’s as memorable as the drink you’ve created.
But no pressure …
Some things to consider
Always remember the drink comes first. As William S. Adkins said in the 1911 edition of The Practical Soda Fountain Guide…, “A good name will not carry a poor drink to success, but a good name attached to a good drink forms a strong combination.”
So, if the drink is good, but the inspiration just isn’t flowing, here are some ways of approaching the process of putting a name to liquid.
Take a straightforward approach
Sometimes it’s worth just telling it like it is. Or, in other words, when in doubt, be literal.
If you are modifying an existing cocktail, the end result should have the same characteristics as the original cocktail. So don’t create confusion by taking an existing name and applying it to a different recipe.
Add a personal perspective
A drink is often more than just taste; it is a vessel that What a cocktail reminds us of can be a powerful inspiration for the name. Whether it’s a feeling, a season or a time of day – a memory from childhood or a lost love – experiences can be powerful, for they are often universal.
That said, it’s sometimes worth being careful of inside jokes, as they are often limiting, but puns (even bad ones) can create a level of approachability and humour, which can ignite the imagination.
A good name will not carry a poor drink to success; but a good name attached to a good drink forms a strong combination.
Refer to a location
There are countless drinks that include a city, state, or other significant locations in their names. Whether it’s a Singapore Sling, a Moscow Mule, or a Manhattan, location names can be powerful identifiers, but they have to be relevant. If you were creating a riff on the Parisian, you might look at calling the drink a Pantinian (Pantin being a suburb of Paris and a Pantinian being someone who lives there).
Keep it in the family
There is often a classic cocktail that has influenced our creation, so where you can, give credit where credit is due. by adapting the name as you have adapted the cocktail. The perfect example is the Cable Car Cocktail which is a modern variation of the classic Sidecar Cocktail.
This can also be done by adding a modifier to the name. When rum is substituted for whisky in a Manhattan recipe, it is called a Cuban Manhattan or when brandy is substituted for gin in the Alexander Cocktail, then it’s called a Brandy Alexander.
Do your research
The best advice that we can give (and the best advice we were ever given) is to make sure that you Google every name you come up with to check if it’s already out in the world. The last thing you need is to start using a name that is already well-known as belonging to a completely different drink.
One of the best ways to create a new cocktail (and particularly name it) is by making the whole experience a bit of a working-b. There is no better way to spend time with friends than during cocktail construction. Especially if you are trying to create a unique cocktail for a coming event, like a wedding or a graduation party, who better to help than your mates?
Finding out what your cocktail creation tastes like to other people is a great starting point. And, as we should know, there’s nothing like a collective for inspiration and advice.