Travel by the Glass
By Chris Epting

Recipes for success
Sure, there are famous bars. But what about famous drinks? Did someone really "invent" the Martini or was it an evolutionary process passed down from mix master to mix master? And is there really a "first" cocktail? Don't settle that tab yet…

martini origin

The Martini — Amato's Restaurant (formerly Richelieu's Saloon)
Whether shaken or stirred, the martini was invented in the late 1800s in a Martinez, California saloon. A miner who had just struck gold stopped at Julio Richelieu's Saloon on Ferry Street (now the site of Amato's Restaurant) to rest his horse and wet his whistle. He plunked down a sack of gold nuggets and asked for champagne. Richelieu told him that champagne was not available, but that he would make something special instead.

Richelieu whipped up an impromptu cocktail, dropped in an olive, and told the customer to enjoy a "Martinez Special." Some say that in its original form, it consisted of two ounces of sweet vermouth, one ounce Old Tom gin, two dashes of maraschino cherry juice, and a dash of bitters. It was shaken with ice, strained, and served with a twist of lemon. The "z" was later dropped, allegedly because it made the name of the drink too difficult to pronounce after actually drinking one. In 1992, a group of proud Martinez locals installed a brass plaque on the corner of Alhambra and Masonic streets to commemorate the birthplace of the martini.

414 Ferry Street
Martinez, CA

The Sazerac — Fairmont Hotel New Orleans
One of America's first cocktails, the Sazerac, was created here in the Big Easy. It happened in the early 1800s thanks to a man named Antoine Peychaud. The Sazerac was named for his favorite French brandy, Sazerac–du–Forge et fils. In 1870, the drink was changed when American rye whiskey was substituted for cognac, and a dash of absinthe was added by local bartender Leon Lamothe, who today is regarded as the Father of the Sazerac. Absinthe was banned in 1912, so Peychaud substituted his special bitters in its place. In 1893, the Grunewald Hotel was built in the New Orleans, and the hotel earned the exclusive rights to serve the Sazerac (in 1965 the hotel was renamed the Fairmont Hotel). Today, the Sazerac is enjoyed in many of New Orleans' finest restaurants and bars, most notably the Sazerac Bar in the Fairmont Hotel, where celebrities, locals, and tourists enjoy the drink.
123 Baronne Street
New Orleans, LA
tequila sunrise origin

Tequila Sunrise — The Arizona Biltmore
The Tequila Sunrise is a cocktail made two different ways, the original (tequila, crème de cassis, lime juice, and club soda) and the more popular concoction (tequila, orange juice, and grenadine syrup). It was originally served here at the Arizona Biltmore, and the cocktail is named for the way it looks after it has been poured into a glass. The grenadine and orange solids settle, creating variations in colors that mimic a sunrise. The history of the drink dates back to about 1940, when a bartender at the Biltmore named Gene Sulit created the drink. A regular guest at the hotel had asked Sulit to surprise him with a refreshing tequila beverage to drink poolside. Sulit blended soda and tequila with Crème de Cassis and fresh lime juice—and the original recipe was born for what would become a memorable cocktail. The drink's name was popularized in the 1973 Eagles single "Tequila Sunrise." The cocktail also made its way into the name of a 1988 Mel Gibson and Michelle Pfeiffer film, plus a single from hip–hop group Cypress Hill.
2400 E. Missouri Avenue
Phoenix, AZ

The Mai Tai — Hinky Dink's (now known as Trader Vic's)
The Mai Tai's origins can be traced not to a lush island paradise, but rather to a small bar near Oakland, California. One afternoon in 1944 at a bar called Hinky Dink's—which would later become Trader Vic's—owner Victor J. Bergeron created a special treat for friends visiting from Tahiti. He mixed Jamaican rum, lime juice, a few dashes of orange Curacao syrup, French orgeat, and rock candy syrup. Vic's guests promptly proclaimed "Maita'i roa!" which in Tahitian translates to "Out of this world!"

However, another mixologist—Don the Beachcomber of Hollywood—also stakes a claim to the Mai Tai. He has said that in 1933 he created a cocktail based on rum and juice called the Original Beachcomber Rum Concoction—or, the original Mai Tai. In response to this and other competing claims to the origin of the Mai Tai, Victor Bergeron contacted the friends who first tried his concoction and had them sign an affidavit attesting to it origins. In fact, Bergeron's 1947 bartender's guide included the admonition, "Anybody who says I didn't create this drink is a dirty stinker."
9 Anchor Drive
Emeryville, CA

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Chris Epting is the writer/photographer of 15 books, including The Birthplace Book and Led Zeppelin Crashed Here: the Rock and Roll Landmarks of North America. Others include James Dean Died Here; Elvis Presley Passed Here; Roadside Baseball; and The Ruby Slippers, Madonna's Bra, and Einstein's Brain. He has contributed articles for such publications as the Los Angeles Times, Westways, Travel + Leisure and Preservation magazine, and is the National Spokesman for the Hampton hotel Save–A–Landmark program. Chris lives in Huntington Beach, CA with his wife and their two children.

Related articles:

Born in the USA: an Apple, a Taco, and a Doctor's Soda Syrup by Chris Epting
Let's Spend The Night Together by Chris Epting
Ten Years to Tequila: On the Agave Trail in Mexico by Tim Leffel

Other United States, Canada and the Caribbean travel stories from the archives

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Led Zeppelin Crashed Here

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The Ruby Slippers, Madonna's Bra, and Einstein's Brain

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