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So, What's It Called? The Art Of Naming Cocktails

What’s in a name? Well, no matter how good your drink, no-one is going to remember it, if they don’t know what to call it.

By: Tiff Christie|February 25,2021

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 stirred up a new syrup, and the inspiration hits. You spend the rest of the day fiddling with measurements and other ingredients until the flavours 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 is can be as fiddly and time-consuming as it is rewarding. 

But if you thought creating a new cocktail was hard, then you have never had to go through the agony of then naming it. 

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The naming might seem like the easy part but it needs to be concise, memorable and pronounceable. It doesn’t hurt if there is a concept and a clear creative purpose. Better still if it’s inviting, has a degree of gravitas and perhaps a little whimsy. 

If you can do all of these things than you have a name that’s as memorable as the drink you’ve created. 

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.”

Iso if the drink is good but the inspiration just isn’t flowing, here are some ways of approaching the name you are going to use for your cocktail creation. 

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. Don’t create confusion by taking an existing name and applying it to a different recipe.

Add a personal perspective

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 on the classic Sidecar Cocktail. 

This can also be done through 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 it’s called a Brandy Alexander.

The best advice that we can give (and the best advice we were ever given) is to make sure that you Google every name — the last thing you need is to end up with a name that is well known and already being used on a 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.

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So, What's It Called? The Art Of Naming Cocktails

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