What’s in a name, you ask?

What’s in a name, you ask? Pix: Chait Goli & Roberto Nickson/ pexels.com

There are those who believe that a name has no meaning. Shakespeare’s Juliet thought so too when she would have you believe that what you call a rose, by any other name would smell just as sweet! No argument there.

Others say that a name is very little if it is simply one that you are given; but begins to have meaning if you make it a reflection of everything you are. Still others say that a name is the blueprint of the thing we call character – it can be just about everything that you are or what you stand for!

We come across so many people who are not particularly happy with their names – they would change them in a flash if they could. Some actually do it, while others lay their inability to do so firmly at that inexplicable word called respect – for their parents!

Then we come across names that no thinking parent should ever christen their hapless children with. Mine was long and difficult to pronounce and came with the added weight of being chosen by my grandfather, who I rather liked a lot.

He was an absolute gentleman with a very modern ideology for the time he was born in (1900). The only bright spark for me was the meaning behind my name – a constellation of a hundred stars. I could then use that, and I did, to make up for the issues I faced growing up with it.

Pop & porn

If I decided to, I could write a tome on the many names I have been freely bestowed with in place of the real deal!! So why am I rambling on about names when I should be spouting meaningful stuff on the liquids that cheer or thereabouts?

Patience peeps, getting there. For each time I ponder over menus, dream up the drinks I want to put in there, dive deep into the history, flavours and culture that surround a cuisine or ideology of the outlet, finding meaningful names that light up each cocktail while giving the bartender some insight into what might go into the making of it.

I grew up in an era of cocktail names being someone’s Bliss, or Fantasy and even a Dream or Kiss. Along the way, when nightclubs were the mainstay, came the obnoxious, gross names that were pornography in a glass! The Slippery Nipple, Orgasm and others that I refuse to give any limelight to.

Yes, there are those who still think they are cool. Good for them. I firmly believe that you do not need to be shocking to sell great drinks. You need to open your mind, look beyond the basics to coin exceptional names for amazing drinks which have a story to tell.

Concept in glass

So what comes first, the name or the drink? I’ve seen it work both ways. Sometimes I think of a name first and then create a drink around it. This is especially true when I create a cuisine or region-based menu. Think Pink City or Hawa Mahal; Gateway of India or Kala Ghoda!

It gives us an opportunity to pick ingredients and flavours that are inspired by these historical places. In my mind, the name should either connect with the ingredients, the concept or ideology of the drink, or the reason behind creating it.

Is there a story behind the ingredients, do they remind you of something or someone? A place, a season, a movie, music… Oh yes, music! Now that has inspired many of my cocktails over the years.

Most of which you chaps today may not know of – Stairway to Heaven, Strawberry Fields, Wish You Were Here, Witchy Woman… They were good days with great bands and a nascent cocktail culture.

Let me not digress. Eons ago I made a peach martini using 45ml of Smirnoff and 15ml of Archer’s peach schnapps. I could have called it simply a peach martini as that is what it was.

But the word Archer’s on the bottle reminded me of Robin Hood, who was a great archer but also quite a nutty character! I thought that if he wanted a drink he would drink this one a lot. So I called it Drunken Archer.

The name would remind the bartender that it would mean a lot of vodka (drunken) and a little of the Archer’s peach schnapps. The garnish was two nuts – whole almonds – to reflect the mad archer as well as the heart of the peach.

It was a simple but great drink, and we sold a lot of it then, and we twisted it over the years to make it amazing even today.

Be inspired

On the other hand, I wanted a drink called the Pink City after Jaipur, so I created a delicious pink gin sour with raspberry. But I added a little black pepper to represent the spices used in the cuisine of Rajasthan.

Hawa Mahal, on the other hand, was a delicate litchi sour with a beautiful coconut and rose foam.

A while ago a bartender from up in the hills asked me to help him name a whiskey sour he had made with honey and ginger. I suggested Snappy Sour – I was thinking of the snap of ginger to release its flavour and in turn, made the drink taste snappy too. His drink got published and he was so excited.

Good drinks need interesting names. They need not always be flamboyant. But when they make an impact it’s magical.

So make it a point to give thought to the name. Let it tell a story, make a connection, be inspired. Let it be a reflection of what is within and what’s to come. And be remembered always.

Just like your own name. Hate it or love it, allow it to become you. And shine. My name is Shatbhi. Named Shatbhisha, after the constellation of the same name, which is a cluster of a hundred stars that was looking down upon Earth when I was born. Look at me: can’t you see me shining bright??