In the cocktail world, even the slightest tweak in a recipe can earn a drink an entirely different name. A riff on a classic Hemingway Daiquiri or a subtle spin on an Old Fashioned can be a bartender’s claim to fame and mark the creation of a new modern classic. But then, there are a select few cocktails that, despite no changes made to their recipes whatsoever, have cycled through a number of nicknames over the years. Take the Vodka Martini: For a brief period, when vodka-driven drinks were all the rage, the Vodka Martini was better known as the Kangaroo Kicker.
According to cocktail historian David Wondrich, the Kangaroo Kicker name didn’t even last a full decade. The drink, known first as the Vodka Martini when it started appearing on American bar menus in the mid-1930s, got the new moniker when Oscar Haimo published it in his 1943 book “Cocktail Digest.” Haimo, who was the head bartender at the Pierre in New York City at the time, dubbed the cocktail “the Kangaroo Kicker” as a tribute to our new Australian allies in light of World War II. In anticipation of an impending gin shortage in the U.S., Haimo was also pushing vodka cocktails in his bar program, like the Moscow Mule. “The Kangaroo Kicker” shows up again in the 1946 “Stork Club Bar Book” by Lucius Beebe, but the references appear to stop there.
Come 1948, tax attorney and mixologist David A. Embury includes the cocktail in its original form as the “Vodka Martini” in his book “The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks,” snuffing out any momentum the Kangaroo nickname had. That said, Wondrich states that the defunct moniker still found its way into cocktail discourse: “[It] made it into the ‘well actually’ repertoire back when sources for drink history were few, and anyone who had a copy of Embury or the Stork Club book could legitimately claim to be an expert.”
Why the Kangaroo title fell out of fashion is still a mystery. The general consensus: It’s just sort of a silly name. Nowadays, it’s either known as a Vodka Martini, Martini with vodka, or a Vodkatini, though that last one will undoubtedly make some bartenders cringe. Not all names were built to last, so to the Kangaroo Kicker, we raise a parting glass — one containing a Vodka Martini, of course.
The article Remembering the Kangaroo Kicker, the Vodka Martini’s Short-Lived Alter Ego appeared first on VinePair.