"It's Your #!": A Legal History of the Bacardi Cocktail

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The Bacardi cocktail was the Cosmopolitan of the Jazz Age: a sweet and sour tipple with an attractive rosy hue and a deceptively alcoholic punch. Created in about 1913, and named after Bacardi rum, it soon became one of the most popular cocktails in America. Prohibition only increased its popularity, as wealthy Americans vacationing in Cuba enjoyed Bacardi cocktails and demanded them at speakeasies and at home. Of course, every good speakeasy offered white rum (or a passable facsimile thereof) and called it “bacardi” no matter who made it. After Repeal, the popularity of the Bacardi cocktail continued to rise as the Bacardi Company launched an ambitious advertising campaign. But for many people, “bacardi” just meant white rum. When a customer asked for a “Bacardi cocktail,” many bartenders used whatever white rum they had on hand. So, the Bacardi Company faced a dilemma. It was thrilled to be the namesake of the “it” cocktail but feared the dilution or loss of its trademark. While it wanted everyone to drink Bacardi cocktails, it also wanted them to insist on Bacardi rum. Accordingly, in 1936, Bacardi filed a trademark infringement action in New York state court, accusing the Barbizon-Plaza Hotel and the Wivel Restaurant of making Bacardi cocktails without Bacardi rum. After a colorful trial, the court issued an injunction, holding a Bacardi cocktail had to include Bacardi rum. It was probably the first time a court had opined on mixological law, and it became the centerpiece of the Bacardi Company's new advertising campaign. But was the court right? When people ordered a Bacardi cocktail, did they actually expect the bartender to use Bacardi rum, or did they simply expect to receive a cocktail made with white rum? Was the “Bacardi” in “Bacardi cocktail” the name of the drink or the rum? And what exactly was a “Bacardi cocktail” anyway?

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)1-49
JournalUniversity of Miami Business Law Review
StatePublished - Jan 1 2018


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