We’ve all heard of cocktail names that make us inwardly (or maybe even outwardly) giggle. But how do these iconic drinks get their equally iconic names?
No two stories are the same. In many cases, there are multiple stories for the same drink. Regardless, the lore and legend behind cocktail names can be intriguing, fascinating, hilarious, and sometimes even mildly offensive.
We’ve gathered a list of the most humorous and interesting cocktail names and their stories.
Cocktail Name Origins
The word cocktail itself has an almost unbelievable origin story. According to Dave Wondrich, back in the day, people trying to sell an old horse would place a piece of ginger in it’s butt. This little trick would lead to the horse ‘cocking’ its tail and acting frisky and energetic – also known as a ‘cock-tail’. It was meant to be something that would give you a bit of buzz, some energy. At least, enough to perk your tail up when you feel burnt out.
There isn’t a clear-cut system for naming cocktails. Some drinks, like the Manhattan, are named for where they were invented (in this case, the Manhattan Club in New York). Others are named after people, some for the liquor they use. Another popular category is pop culture or media (how many ‘Barbie’ named or themed cocktails have you seen in the last few months?).
The Pornstar Martini
The Pornstar Martini is a modern classic invented by Douglas Ankrah at London’s Townhouse Bar in the early 2000s. The combination of vanilla, passionfruit, and a shot of sparkling wine on the side has become a beloved staple in Britain.
It’s said the name came from Ankrah himself, as he thought it would be a drink that a porn star would order.
The Duck Fart Shot
You can’t even think about the name of this shot and not laugh. How are duck farts not funny? The shot is layered with coffee liqueur on the bottom, Irish creme liqueur in the middle, and Canadian whiskey as a float on the top.
This shot was invented at the Peanut Farm Bar in Anchorage, Alaska.
No one knows the origin of the name, but it’s become known as Alaska’s state drink.
The Chuck Norris Shot
The Chuck Norris shot is cherry vodka dropped into 3-4 oz of an energy drink. Optionally, you can also add a dash of your favorite hot sauce. Legend has it that it was created in Fargo, North Dakota, and it’s popular there today – specifically in college bars.
According to Liquor Laboratory, the name comes from the drink being “smooth like a pistol with the impact of a shotgun.”
By the way, there’s an even more potent version of this shot. It’s called the ‘Chuck Norris Roundhouse Kick to the Face.’ We’ll leave you to Google that one on your own.
The Slippery Nipple
Another layered shot with a saucy name, the Slippery Nipple, hit the scene in the 80s when everyone was naming their cocktails and shots something risque. (Think Sex on the Beach, Fuzzy Navels, the Buttery Nipple).
It’s made by pouring grenadine into a shot glass, slowly adding sambuca, and then finishing it with Irish creme liqueur.
Sh*t on the Grass Shot
All you need to do is look at this shot, and you’ll know where the moniker came from. With coffee liqueur at the bottom and then melon liqueur layered over the top – appetizing isn’t exactly the word that comes to mind upon first inspection.
There’s a second version of this you can make as well, which involves layering Irish cream liqueur over creme de menthe. It gives it a different look again but the same idea.
Sex on the Beach
Like others on this list, there are a few variations on the origin story of this cocktail. Made with orange juice, cranberry juice, peach schnapps, and vodka, Sex on the Beach is easy to drink.
Legend has it that a bartender from Florida named Ted was inspired to create a cocktail using peach schnapps. The reason? There was a company with a promotion to sell the most schnapps.
The name supposedly comes from the fact he figured most of his customers came to Florida for two reasons – sex and the beaches.
The Corpse Reviver
This cocktail has a long and storied history (it’s also spawned countless spin-offs). It was one of the first breakfast and brunch cocktails and first appeared in the book ‘Gentlemen’s Table Guide’ in 1871. The original was made with brandy, Maraschino liqueur, and Boker’s bitters.
The Corpse River #2 is made with Kina Lillet (which actually stopped being made in the 1980s), Cointreau, absinthe, and gin. One bartender said that four of these in succession “will revive the corpse again.”
Naked and Famous
The Naked and Famous is another modern classic, invented by Joaquin Simo at Death & Co. in 2011. He calls it “the bastard love child” between the classic Last Word cocktail and the Paper plane.
It’s equal parts Mezcal, Aperol, yellow chartreuse, and fresh lime juice, making a smoky, bitter, sweet, sour, and incredibly well-balanced cocktail.
The name comes from a lyric of a Tricky song Simo loved when he was a kid: Tricky Kid from Pre-Millennium Tension.
The Dirty Martini
This absolute classic (always stirred and never shaken) is thought to have been invented in 1901 by John O’Connor. His original idea was to add the olive to the mix by muddling it and adding some olive brine.
It took a while to grow in popularity, but eventually, it got so famous Franklin D. Roosevelt would mix them for his visitors in the White House.
The name is more innocent than one might think. The classic dry martini (made with gin and dry vermouth) is a clear, clean drink. When you add a splash of olive brine, though? It gives it a cloudy look and switches up the clean flavor.
Between the Sheets
A classic, this cocktail first came into fashion in the early 1900s, fell off the radar, but came back in the 80s. While the origins are murky (like many a classic cocktail), the most common belief is it was created by the iconic Harry MacElhone of Harry’s New York bar in Paris in 1924.
The name comes from the drink’s strong and boozy nature, leading to a potentially exciting end to the evening.
This cocktail is similar to the Sidecar. It adds light rum, but there’s no sugared rim like you would find on the Sidecar. It has equal parts rum, cognac, and triple sec with lemon juice.
A classic cocktail with a well-known origin story? Yes, please. The Hanky Panky is a version of a martini but on the sweeter side. It’s made with gin, sweet vermouth, Fernet Branca, and a hint of orange juice. (The OJ is a more recent addition – the original doesn’t call for it.)
The Hanky Panky was invented by Ada’ Coley’ Coleman, the first female head bartender at the Savory Hotel’s American Bar. She started there in 1903 and worked at the establishment until her retirement in 1926.
One of her repeat customers, Charles Hawtrey, was a great judge of cocktails. He used to work long hours and would ask her to “give him something with a bit of punch in it.” She spent hours experimenting until she came up with this new cocktail. His reaction was, “By Jove! That’s the real hanky-panky!” – it’s been named that ever since.
Sloe Comfortable Screw on The Beach
This is the lesser-known cousin of Sex on the Beach, and there is some logic in the name. This cocktail is Sex on the Beach, but it’s made with Sloe gin and orange juice (the “screw” comes from the Screwdriver cocktail, made with vodka and orange juice).
There you have it: some funny, off-color, and bizarre cocktail names that will never get old. This list could have been much longer – and continues to grow daily.
Cara is the founder of The Gourmet Bon Vivant, a food blog that aims to get you to stretch your limits in the kitchen. Whether it’s a new ingredient or cooking technique, TGBV is here to help you make restaurant quality, gourmet meals from the comfort of your own home (and impress your friends and family while doing it. Cara has been featured in Fox News, Martha Stewart, Yahoo and more. A former broadcast journalist, she’s just as comfortable in front of the camera as she is behind it.