How to Name a Cocktail

by | Jun 24, 2019 | Mixology | 0 comments

It’s the perfect drink. You poured your heart and soul into the recipe. You made a dozen different versions. You infused, macerated, chopped and tinkered. And it’s finally absolutely perfect.

And then you realize… now you have to come up with a name.

Ughhhh….

How do you find a name that tells the story of the cocktail and does it justice? Or even for a simpler drink without so much R&D, what’s a good name that “feels” right?  It’s definitely one of the trickiest parts of cocktail creation (in my opinion.)

And while this article won’t give you the perfect name for your drink, I will provide some ideas and inspiration for things to think about the next time you find yourself stumped.  Good luck!

The Cocktail Family / Style

Most drinks can be traced back to a “family” or archetype of sorts. Margaritas, Daiquiries and Lemon Drops are considered “Sours”, for example. So take a step back from your recipe and look at it from a high level. Could it be a take on a sour, or even a take on a specific sour?

Play with the ingredients, flavors, and emotions of the drink to fill in the blanks.

________ Whiskey Sour (Celery? Sunshine? Sultry?)

________ Margarita (Mint? Millionaire? Mailman’s?)

As long as you can tell the story to justify it, you should be in good shape.

What’s in it?

I am of two minds here: on the one hand, using ingredients to name a cocktail is very useful for a guest. It tells them exactly what to expect. On the other hand it’s just not terribly inspiring.

Using a few of our examples above, a “Celery Whiskey Sour” or a “Mint Margarita” just aren’t names that get me super excited. But a “Sunshine Whiskey Sour” or “Mailman’s Margarita” – well, that’s a bit more interesting.

That said, you can get a bit more creative while still talking about what’s in the drink:

  • Celery in the Sunshine
  • Mint Mountaintop
  • Raspberry Rambler

This is one of the “safer” routes to follow, and generally easier too.

The Origin Story

One thing I know Chris likes to do is look back at the ingredients and where they came from. For example, he made a cocktail loosely inspired by a Caipirinha, but using Cognac. So he looked up the origin of the word “Caipirinha” and found a rough equivalent in French. The result?

De Clocher

So what are you using in your drink? What country is it from? What language do they speak? Even something as simple as “Ginger Sour” might sound great in Italian! (Disclaimer: I didn’t actually look that up. Don’t tell me if I’m wrong.)

Local Color

Chris also used to love making local adaptations of famous drinks and then naming them accordingly. Made an Old Fashioned with local Whiskey and bitters? Name it after an old monument in your own town. Created a bright and floral drink? Name it after a famous local park or botanical garden.

Think about your drink: what does it have in common with local people, places or things? There’s probably something there you can work with!

Other Random Things you Like

Feeling zesty? Why not just choose a name that just feels right? If you’re looking for some word ideas to start with, start here:

  • Paint colors (Just go to the hardware store. Seriously they are great.)
  • Music and Songs (especially puns or versions thereof) “Lucy in the Sky with Daikon”. OK I just made that up, but now we need to make it…
  • People – be it a regular or an occupation, you’d be surprised how a person can evoke emotion. “Gentleman’s Bramble” tells you a lot about a drink, and would obviously be very different than a “Longshoreman Sour”
  • Memories and Nostalgia. “Red Tricycle”. “Hot Summer Nights”. “Flannel & Hot Chocolate”.

Considerations and Inspiration

As you continue with naming your drink, consider a few other things:

  • How much space do you have on the menu? While “Jenny Lying in a Bamboo Field” might evoke exactly the emotions you are looking for, if it’s so long the line wraps weirdly on your menu, that might just not work.
  • Alliteration: oh man, I am a sucker for alliteration. Maybe you noticed above in my suggestions – “Celery Sunshine” or “Mint Mountaintop”.
  • Themed menu: Some bars like to have seasonal (or permanent) themed menus. If that’s what you’re going for, then it will definitely be a big factor in the names you choose.

Resources

When helping Chris name cocktails, here are some great tools and resources I’ve found helpful:

  • Google Translate: great for translating into the language of a drink or ingredient’s origin.
  • VisuWords: Want a drink that makes you feel relaxing? Look up synonyms for “relax” using this fancy visual thesaurus. I find the visual nature of it can help with brainstorming. (Of course, you could also just use Thesaurus.com!)
  • “Words that start with R”: If you’re trying to alliterate, then googling something like this can be super helpful, even if just to help get the creative juices flowing.
  • Google Image Search: Making a raspberry cocktail with rum? Search for “Raspberry rum cocktail” on Google Images search and scroll through the photos for inspiration. What are the themes of the cocktails? Are they summery? Dark and sinister? You will also see other people’s cocktail names, which can be good inspiration too. (Not to copy!)

If all else fails…

If all else fails, log into our log into our Facebook Group and post your cocktail recipe + photo. We’ll be happy to help you name your newest creation!