Ask Bacchus: What's In A Name?

First and foremost, CONGRATULATIONS to the Betty Fords for the Trivia Triumph last night at Bacchus. They eked out a win over the Tig Ol' Bitties in a tiebreaker by guessing Queen Elizabeth's reign within 2 months. Next Trivia is on Monday, August 15th at 7PM.

With trivia team names like Betty Fords and Tig Ol' Bitties, it got us thinking about a question one customer posed about how certain cocktails got their names.

Why is a vodka and orange juice called a screwdriver?
What's a gimlet and why is it called that?

Both explanations involve sailors, so we knew you'd enjoy a little visual to set the mood...

There are so many stories about how the combination of vodka and orange juice came to be known as a "screwdriver." The first dates back to Prohibition where the quality of bootlegged alcohol was often suspect. To mask the taste, drinkers would add fruit juices. Apparently someone's reaction to drinking (bad) vodka with orange juice was to purse their lips and scrunch up their face into a "screw." Subsequently, the drinker would order a screwdriver.

The second explanation also involves Prohibition, but it's more believable. Drinkers would visit establishments and, since alcohol was illegal, they had to come up with code names for their orders to confuse any federal agents that were nearby. So the code name for vodka + OJ was "screwdriver."

The final explanation (that we're considering) involves sailors and oil rig workers in the Persian Gulf. The days were long and arduous and they often enjoyed drinking straight booze at night. Having exhausted all of the gin, whiskey and rye, the sailors had vodka remaining. They did not like the taste so decided to mix it up with a container of orange juice. The mixing implement was a (greasy) screwdriver. They enjoyed the sweet and potable drink and nicknamed it after the tool they used to mix it.

The gimlet has completely different folklore. There are, however, a couple of stories for this alcohol + lime juice combo.

The first story explains that, in the 1870s, Sir Thomas Gimlette of the British Royal Navy prescribed adding lime juice to the enlisted sailor's daily intake of gin, thus preventing scurvy. So the cocktail was named after this man and the name simplified (to sound less French, of course).

The second explanation, again, involves a tool. There is a tool called a gimlet. It's a sharp pointed steel poker with a handle (more or less a corkscrew without the screw). The drink is named after the "piercing" effect the tart lime taste mixed with spirits has on the drinker.

No matter what the name origin for both, screwdrivers and gimlets are quite refreshing. The combination of fruit juice and alcohol is a winning one. Order one today at Bacchus. Or enjoy Tap Tuesday. All tap beer is $2 today and tonight.

Do you have a question about drinking, cocktails, Bacchus you'd like us to consider? Let us know. We'll be happy to investigate and may even publish our response. :-)