Every now and then, when I’m out on the town, I’ll pick up my glass and sincerely wonder who was this Jack Daniel’s guy and how did he create this magic? The story may surprise you. In fact, there are quite a few of our favorite or at least familiar liquor brands whose names have some interesting origin stories.
Peter Smirnoff, aptly, was the man who gave us this legendary clear drink. He began producing his own vodka in the 1800s, which was said to be so good, Czar Alexander III made Smirnoff his official distiller. By the 1900s, Smirnoff was mass producing his vodka, but the Russian Revolution proved to be cruel to the alcohol industry and his distilleries were closed and seized.
He fled to Turkey where he began production again, but once the Great Depression rolled in, he once again had to let go of the family business. In 1934, Rudolph Kennett bought the company from Smirnoff. I guess the upside is Peter Smirnoff’s name will live on through his vodka.
Anyone who has enjoyed this brand knows that it is one of the most delicious gins available on the market. But that’s a pretty odd name for a gin, isn’t it? Beefeater was actually a term that used to refer to one particular corps of the ceremonial guards at the Tower of London, as far back as 400 years ago. This particular corps of guards were referred to as the Yeomen Wardens and were given the name “Beef-Eaters” in 1669 by the Duke of Tuscany.
This was mostly due to the preference and habit of these Yeomen Wardens to enjoy making and eating broths made entirely of beef. In fact, in the daily court which the Yeomen Wardens attended, a heavy ration of beef was kept aside only for them, due to their fondness for the meat. It’s not clear where along the way this happened, but eventually, this colloquial nickname became the inspiration for this particular brand of gin.
This type of liquor has an interesting and symbolic story behind its name and logo. For those of us not fluent in German, the name “Jagermeister” means “Hunting Master”. According to sources in the company, it is said that the name was derived from a story involving St. Hubertus, the patron saint of hunting.
One day, while out on one of his usual haunts, he came across a beautiful white deer with a cross held in its antlers, similar to the image on the logo. The sight was so awe-inspiring to St. Hubertus, he chose to give up the hunt and devote his life to only doing good. In homage to this legendary story, Jagermeister was born.
4. Jim Beam
The Beam Family have been making their top-notch bourbon for a little over 2 centuries. In fact, there are seven generations of Beams that have dedicated their lives to the liquor industry. So a century in, when Prohibition laws were passed outlawing the sale and consumption of alcohol, this family-run business took a major hit and was forced to close down all operations of their business.
A little less than 15 years later, when the Prohibition laws were repealed, the Beam bourbon got a second wind, thanks to James B. Beam, a particularly entrepreneurial member of the family. In honor of his contribution to the successful resurrection of the family business, each bottle since has borne the nickname Jim Beam. Thank you, Jim. Thank you.
5. Monkey 47
This classic and tasty gin has its roots buried in the old colonial days when the British still had a heavy presence in India and other Asian nations. This access to a multitude of spices and herbs did wonders for the traditional London Dry Gin. It also is a major contributor to one part of this great gin’s name – 47, which represents the 47 botanicals present in the gin that give it its unique flavor. So what about the monkey?
As it turns out, it was Wing Commander Montgomery Collins, the son of a diplomat settled in India who was drawn to the beautiful Black Forest of India in the 1950s who we have to thank for this strange addition. It was there that he developed his own special gin, by distilling the fruits found in that forest. During his stay, he settled himself into the Wild Monkey guesthouse, who bore the trademark for Monty’s gin through the 1970s. It was later, when Collins’s own bottle was unearthed, a small sketch of a monkey was found and emboldened by black lettering bearing the words “Max the Monkey–Schwarzwald Dry Gin”. The rest, as they say, is history.
This story begins in Ireland in the 1700s, when Arthur Guinness, an Irishman, made his first foray into brewing. His original products were very average, like most other beers on the market, and nothing like the awe-inspiring dark heavy goodness we enjoy today under the name Guinness. In a rare and brilliant moment of sheer incredible business acumen, using the money his father had left for him, Arthur managed to secure an exorbitantly long lease on an abandoned brewery for only $45, which was half of his inheritance.
But the real secret behind what made Guinness the luxurious frothy delight it is now was a fire in the brewery, that set their entire stock of barley ablaze. Always thinking in terms of glass-half-full, the burned barley was then used in the brew. And so was born the luscious Guinness that steals the beer market today.
7. Jack Daniels
Jasper Newton Daniels was born in 1850 into a big family in Tennessee. As a young boy, he lost his mother. To earn for his siblings and himself, he decided to take up the art of whiskey making. He learned under the tutelage of one Reverend Dan Call. Till recently, it was believed that Dan Call was the brain behind the incredible whiskey eventually created by Jasper, but it has since been discovered that Nearis Green, a slave working in this distillery of Dan Call was actually behind the original recipe of Jack Daniel’s whiskey.
Eventually, the Reverend had to close down his distillery due to disruptions from the evangelists. He instead chose to sell it to Jasper, who, by then, took on the nickname “Jack”. Jack Daniels traveled the world with his whiskey and his band (The Jack Daniel’s Original Silver Cornet Band). Daniels had Nearis Green’s sons continue working with him in the distillery after that. By the beginning of the 20th Century, Jack Daniel’s Whisky was a multi-award-winning liquor, as famous for its proprietor as it was for its smooth taste.