Categorizing mixed drinks

As it goes, we started out in the late 19th Century with all these drink categories (some a bit stunted, some a bit redundant):

  • cobbler
  • cocktail
  • collins
  • cooler
  • crusta
  • daisy
  • eggnog
  • fix
  • fizz
  • flip
  • frappe
  • highball
  • julep
  • negus
  • pousse café
  • punch
  • rickey
  • sangaree
  • sling
  • smash
  • sour
  • swizzle
  • toddy

… and gradually, ‘everything’ became a cocktail (exaggeration, but only slight).

As a curator of relatively large cocktail recipe databases, this sucks.

I feel that there are at least two numerous subgroups of ‘cocktails’ that could be constructively named—if only for the purposes of making digital indexes more useful:

  • cocktail (sour), such as the Daiquiri, Sidecar, Aviation, Clover Club, Corpse Reviver #2, or a bazillion others that contain significant quantities of citrus and are typically served in a cocktail glass, rather than a sour glass or rocks glass
  • cocktail (dessert) or somesuch, including the likes of the Stinger and diverse (mostly uncommon) liqueur- and dairy-heavy sweet ‘cocktails’, perhaps omitting digestif (amaro) drinks

Do these seem intuitive? Any other conceptual swaths of ‘cocktails’ you’d like to be able to filter a collection with?

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Actually, “cocktail (digestif)” might make a lot of sense, given the contemporary popularity of amari in cocktails.

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Scaffa? (Room temp/no ice) recipes. Don’t know if there’s enough to merit a spot here but thought I’d mention…


At the very least, I have a few recipes from print that don’t contain “scaffa” in the name and make no mention of ice. In the context of the books they’re printed in, it can seem at least as likely to be an editorial mistake, but who knows? I’m going to add the category regardless, because, hey, it’s a category!

Is the “buck” enough of a thing? There are a ton of historical tall drinks that are “fill with ginger ale”—is it comfortable to call them “bucks”?

I coupled the entry with “Rickey” in my book (FYI), so I would say why not, yes.

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It seems another “unnamed” category of drinks is one that I think evolved mostly post-war, probably as a result of sustained marketing behind the alleged health benefits of drinking large quantities of fruit juices: drinks like the Screwdriver or Salty Dog or various “Sunshine” drinks.

Perhaps these are also related to the various tall drinks drenched in flavored sodas? Is it all a post-soda fountain era era 20th Century brand marketing thing?

I have seen more and more drinks being thrown loosely in the highball category when it comes to this style of drinks even when a lot of other ingredients are added in.

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Much like a ‘cocktail’ is sometimes anything served in a cocktail glass, a ‘highball’ is sometimes anything served in a tall glass.

I think one of the earliest important cocktail books to feature Highballs is Charles Mahoney’s 1905 Hoffman House Bartender’s Guide, and some of those are pretty elaborate:

The template of ‘spirits plus a large amount of mixer’ is lurking in this one, but the spirits portion has been chopped up into a cocktail of its own!