I started thinking about this the other night when my wife asked me for something new to drink. She likes very tart drinks (a lot of lime juice) and she said she wanted it in an old-fashioned glass. So I mixed up 2 parts vodka, 2 parts lime juice, 1 part simple syrup into an old-fashioned on the rocks. I tried to think what this drink was called because it is fairly simple and I’m sure it has a name. Then I realized I basically made a tart vodka daiquiri on the rocks. But with all those modifiers it seems like it needs a new name.
This question has sparked many a debates over drinks and their names For example let's look at the Gimlet. The Gimlet is a fundamental cocktail that is made with Gin and Rose's Lime Juice.
That is the original recipe, as the story goes... Lauchlin Rose convinced the British Navy to use his new Lime Cordial to ward off scurvy back in 1867. The Navy officers would then mix this with their ration of gin and the Gimlet was born. An officer and surgeon named Sir Thomas Gimlette is credited with making the cocktail popular between 1879 and 1913. (4)
However, there are many people that do not care for Rose's Lime Juice and/or have also been taught to always use fresh juice in their drinks, a practice that I highly recommend by the way. So they make their Gimlet with Gin, Simple Syrup, and Lime Juice. For the most part Rose's is a sweetened lime cordial.
One would not think this small change would cause such a debate, but it does. Some people insist that a Gimlet is only a Gimlet if it is made with Rose's. I can see their point, but personally I am okay with calling a Gin, Simple Syrup, and Lime Juice a Gimlet. Why, because I would not send back a Gimlet prepared either way.
So, if that is not a big enough change for a name change, what is? And what are the rules to determine the need for a name change?
In trying to quantify this I came up with the following over simplified rules.
A drink needs a new name if any of the following are true:
- The base liquor changes
- There is a major ratio change in the ingredients where by the drink tastes completely different.
- An ingredient is changed to something that is not a close substitute (meaning substituting Cointreau for Triple Sec is okay)
- The garnish changes
- The ratios of ingredients change slightly
- The type of glassware changes
- The mixing instructions are different (on rocks vs up, etc…)
- An ingredient is replaced with a close substitute
Unfortunately, some of these rules are subjective and they are not hard-fast. The ratio difference is one subjective measure, where do you draw the line? The second is, what ingredients qualify as close substitutes? Who's to say?
These subjective measures are the reason why determining if a drink needs a new name is so difficult. If you go by my rules the question of the Gimlet comes down to if you consider Simple Syrup and Lime Juice a close substitute for Rose's Lime Cordial. I say yes, but others disagree.
Another issue with drink names is that many times new drinks are not researched properly before they are dubbed... NEW COCKTAIL!!
There are many drinks out there that are the same drink, but have different names. This happens when a bartender "invents" what he/she thinks is a new drink and names it something, when in fact the drink is already invented. There are also drinks out there named the same thing, but are actually very different. For example: a Red Snapper was first a Gin Bloody Mary, but then someone named a shot Red Snapper with Crown, Amaretto, and Cranberry Juice.
So, the answer to our question is difficult and doesn't have straight-forward answer. The ambiguous rules and the lack of naming research have caused a large amount of confusion and debate.
This confusion and debate will continue until everyone can agree on the rules, and that most likely won't happen... Oh well.