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Every Ivy League School Has a Cocktail Named After It. What’s Yours?

on 18/09/13 at 9:33 am

Booze News

indexUS News & World Report—a pillar in the field of freaking out people who remit and collect college tuition payments—published its entertainingly meaningless rankings of the nation’s top undergraduate institutions last week. Waking to this pseudo-event, with its headline news that Princeton University is better than all other schools, we in the Slate Drink department cheered thrice for Old Nassau. Celebrating at noonday, we enjoyed a long liquid lunch, a practice notably familiar to our tribe. And what did we drink? Oh, 19 or 20 cocktails, many of them kinda weird, all named after Ivy League colleges.

Like the other, crappier schools in its athletic conference, Princeton is party to a tradition dating to the Gay ’90s. In that Golden Age of the cocktail, the bar at Holland House on Fifth Avenue—a hotel in “the swellest quarter in New York” (“350 Rooms from $2 upwards”)—began putting out drinks named for Harvard and Yale and Princeton, doubtless currying favor with the alumni among its patrons and announcing itself as a “classy” joint to other suckers for HYP hype.

The cocktails of Ivy League, then, predate the social construct of “the Ivy League” by four decades and the history of the NCAA entity by six. Over the years, charming upstarts, curious arrivistes, and dogged usurpers joined the original collegiate cocktails, which themselves evolved and degenerated to varying degrees. Interestingly, only those recipes attached to the names of Ivies have made their way into recorded history, unless you count the Caltech Cocktail (ingredients: “4 ounces water”). We’d be happy to be proved wrong about this exclusivity. Indeed, we were disappointed to learn that the totally solid Vanderbilt—one part brandy, one part cherry brandy, a couple of dashes of Angostura bitters—is named not for the “Harvard of the South” or even for the robber baron who endowed it but instead for a trust-fund kid who died on the Lusitania. There might be a noteworthy drink named for the eighth-oldest college in the U.S.; as this story went to the proverbial press, we stumbled upon a website inviting Rutgers alumni to a Manhattan bar to watch the Scarlet Knights face Fresno State on the gridiron while enjoying a “special Rutgers cocktail.” Stay tuned for an update, but don’t hold your breath for anything like a Fresno Statini.