H.L. Mencken (18801956). The American Language. 1921.
In the department of conviviality the imaginativeness of Americans was shown both in the invention and in the naming of new and often highly complex beverages. So vast was the production of novelties in the days before Prohibition, in fact, that England borrowed many of them and their names with them. And not only England: one buys cocktails and gin-fizzes to this day in American bars that stretch from Paris to Yokohama. Cocktail, stone-fence and sherry-cobbler were mentioned by Irving in 1809;29 by Thackerays time they were already well-known in England. Thornton traces the sling to 1788, and the stinkibus and anti-fogmatic, both now extinct, to the same year. The origin of the rickey, fizz, sour, cooler, skin, shrub and smash, and of such curious American drinks as the horses neck, Mamie Taylor, Tom-and-Jerry, Tom-Collins, John-Collins, bishop, stone-wall, gin-fix, brandy-champarelle, golden-slipper, hari-kari, locomotive, whiskey-daisy, blue-blazer, black-stripe, white-plush and brandy-crusta remains to be established; the historians of alcoholism, like the philologists, have neglected them.30 But the essentially American character of most of them is obvious, despite the fact that a number have gone over into English. The English, in naming their drinks, commonly display a far more limited imagination. Seeking a name, for example, for a mixture of whiskey and soda-water, the best they could achieve was whiskey-and-soda. The Americans, introduced to the same drink, at once gave it the far more original name of high-ball. So with ginger-ale and ginger-pop.31 So with minerals and soft-drinks. Other characteristic Americanisms (a few
Note 29. Knickerbockers History of New York; New York, 1809, p. 241. [back]
Note 30. Extensive lists of such drinks, with their ingredients, are to be found in The Hoffman House Bartenders Guide, by Charles Mahoney, 4th ed.; New York, 1916; in The Barkeepers Manual, by Raymond E. Sullivan, 4th ed.; Baltimore, n.d., and in Wehman Brothers Bartenders Guide; New York, 1912. An early list, from the Lancaster (Pa.) Journal of Jan. 26, 1821, is quoted by Thornton, vol. ii, p. 985. The treatise by Prof. Sullivan (whose great talents I often enjoyed at the Belvedere Hotel in Baltimore before the Methodist hellenium) is particularly interesting. The sale of all such books, I believe, is now prohibited, but they may be consulted by scholars in the Library of Congress. [back]
Note 31. An English correspondent writes: Did the Americans invent ginger-ale and ginger-pop? Then why dont they make some that is drinkable? Do you know of a decent unimported dry ginger? Ginger-pop, in England, is ginger-beer, an article rarely seen in America. Stone-ginger is the only temperature drink worth a damn, perhaps because, properly made, it contains a certain amount of alcohol. It is brewed, not charged with CO2. Where in America can I buy stone-ginger; that is to say, ginger-beer from a brewery, sold in stone bottles? We say pop in England, but not ginger-pop. [back]