Food & Drink

All of the Cocktails the Government Legally Defines

One side effect of the cocktail renaissance is that every classic cocktail now has a plethora of interpretations. The Manhattan went reverse and swapped the proportions of sweet vermouth and rye. The Moscow Mule seems to be endlessly customizable with variations on garnishes, liquor type and proportions. This story is neither the time nor place to get into all of the Martini options. But if you like to follow the law, the U.S. government can clear everything up for you. The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) legally defines 29 cocktails and seven cocktail twists.

The definitions can be found in chapter four of the TTB’s Beverage Alcohol Manual, published in 2007. It’s in the same section that defines types of distilled spirits based on class and type like “neutral spirits” or “whiskey.” Near the end of the chapter, the TTB defines recognized cocktails as such:

“[A] mixed drink that has gained trade and consumer recognition, containing one or more class(es) and/or type(s) of distilled spirits with flavoring and/or coloring materials.”

The Beverage Alcohol Manual fails to further elaborate how drinks gained enough “trade and consumer recognition” to be included. Some of the options seem odd, like the Apricot Sour and the Pink Squirrel, which are far from ubiquitous. Others, like the Margarita and all its added flavors (“Strawberry Margarita” is one called out by name), make sense. Google Ngram, a program that tracks how many times words are mentioned in books, shows that most of the drinks peaked in popularity in the 1980s with the exception of the Margarita, Daiquiri, Gimlet and Mint Julep. Ngram is far from a complete picture on what people are talking about, but it’s a useful tool to track cultural change and interest over time.

Regardless of how they’re chosen, they’re the ones that the government settled on. Here are the legal definitions of government-approved cocktails in the Beverage Alcohol Manual’s own words, punctuation and spelling.

Apricot Sour: Apricot flavored brandy or apricot liqueur/cordial and lemon juice or oil or natural lemon flavor.

Black Russian: Vodka and coffee flavored brandy or coffee liqueur/cordial.

Bloody Mary: Vodka and tomato juice or natural tomato flavor.

Alexander, e.g. “Brandy Alexander”: Specific distilled spirits indicated in the cocktail name, e.g., brandy in the case of “Brandy Alexander,” creme de cacao and cream.

Daiquiri: Rum and lime juice or oil or natural lime flavor.

_____ Daiquiri, e.g., “Pineapple Daiquiri”: Daiquiri with added flavor as indicated in the cocktail name, e.g., Daiquiri with added pineapple juice or natural pineapple flavor in the case of “Pineapple Daiquiri.”

Egg Nog: Brandy, rum or whisky, milk or milk products of at least 6 percent butter fat, at least 1 percent egg yolk solids, sweetener and natural flavor.

Gimlet: Gin and lime juice, oil or natural lime flavor.

Vodka Gimlet: Vodka and lime juice, oil or natural lime flavor.

Grasshopper: Creme de menthe, creme de cacao and cream.

Mai Tai: Rum and citrus juices, oils or natural citrus flavors.

Manhattan: Whisky (any type) and vermouth.

_____ Manhattan, e.g., “Scotch Manhattan”: Specific distilled spirits indicated in the cocktail name, e.g., blended scotch whisky in the case of “Scotch Manhattan,” and vermouth.

Margarita: Tequila, triple sec and lime or lemon juice or oil or natural lime or lemon flavor.

_____ Margarita, e.g., “Strawberry Margarita”: Margarita with added flavor as indicated in the cocktail name, e.g., Margarita with added strawberry juice or natural strawberry flavor in the case of “Strawberry Margarita.”

Martini: Gin and vermouth.

Vodka Martini: Vodka and vermouth.

Mint Julep: Straight bourbon whisky and natural mint flavor.

_____ Mint Julep, e.g., “Vodka Mint Julep”: Specific distilled spirits indicated in the cocktail name, e.g., vodka in the case of “Vodka Mint Julep,” and natural mint flavor.

Old Fashioned: Straight bourbon whisky and bitters.

Pink Squirrel: Creme de almond, creme de cacao and cream.

Screwdriver: Vodka and orange juice or oil or natural orange flavor.

Sloe Gin Fizz: Sloe gin liqueur/cordial, lemon juice or oil or natural lemon flavor and club soda.

Tom Collins: Gin, lemon juice or oil or natural lemon flavor and club soda.

_____ Collins, e.g., “Vodka Collins”: Specific distilled spirits indicated in the cocktail name, e.g., vodka in the case of “Vodka Collins,” lemon juice or oil or natural lemon flavor and club soda.

Wallbanger: Vodka, orange juice or oil or natural orange flavor and galliano or similar type liqueur/cordial.

Whisky Sour: Whisky and lemon juice or oil or natural lemon flavor.

_____ Sour, e.g., “Pisco Sour”: Specific distilled spirits indicated in the cocktail name, e.g., pisco in the case of “Pisco Sour” and lemon juice or oil or natural lemon flavor.

White Russian: Vodka, coffee flavored brandy or coffee liqueur/cordial and cream.