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Help me out with cocktail names. Are they always capitalized because they are proper names? For example, would I capitalize this way: "Do you prefer a Gin and Tonic or a Sidecar?" It's confusing because, in a way, giraffe could be considered the proper name of an animal species, yet giraffe is not a proper noun.

If not, do the rules change if a proper noun is the name of a drink, as with a Margarita or a Tom Collins? And what about cocktails in which only part of the name of the drink is a proper noun, as with a Moscow Mule or a Long Island Iced Tea?

  • You can drink a Rusty Nail, but a rusty nail can give you tetanus. – Robusto Mar 4 '17 at 15:31
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    This is largely a matter of style. Adhere to the discipline of your editor, publication, or organization, or in the absence of a house style, observe the guidance of your preferred style manual. – choster Mar 4 '17 at 19:22
  • What @choster said. – Drew Mar 5 '17 at 2:31
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If the cocktail is a made-up name then I treat it as a proper name and use capital letters. A Screwdriver, a Manhattan, a Mojito... . This is how it is done on the Wiki cocktail page (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_cocktails).

But if the drink name is synonymous with its ingredients then capitalising seems odd -

"Would you like some Cheese and Biscuits with your Gin and Tonic" - surely not!

  • Sadly, Wikipedia is inconsistent. But I'd say your advice is sound. – Edwin Ashworth Mar 4 '17 at 17:29
  • Note that "Manhattan" is derived from a capitalized proper place name, which is another reason it might be capitalized--even by people who would not capitalize "screwdriver" or "mojito". – sumelic Oct 3 '18 at 22:05
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Since it's a specific name (as in John Smith), rather than an object (as in human being), it's probably correct to use title text. This could be to reduce ambiguity, for example gin and tonic are two ingredients for making Gin and Tonic.

A Long Island iced tea not only looks slightly awkward, but could mean an iced tea from Long Island, which is not the same thing as a Long Island Iced Tea.

  • I disagree with "Gin and Tonic" (which are generic and shouldn't be capitalized), but in general, you've given a good answer. Generic types of liquor don't require capitalization unless the meaning would not be clear from the context (as in your example of a LIIT). "He ordered a Whiskey Sour" looks OK, but "He nursed his vodka on the rocks for more than an hour" wouldn't need to be capitalized. Obviously, when you get into brand names, then capitalization of at least the label name would be required. – Mark Hubbard Mar 4 '17 at 16:50
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I think 'he nursed his vodka on the rocks' demonstrates the need for use of capitalisation in some generic cocktails too otherwise you could interpret this as he sat on the rocks nursing a neat vodka. Whereas 'he nursed his Vodka on the Rocks' tells us he nursed his vodka with ice. It is a case of seeking the greatest clarity in use of language that should guide our usage.

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