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When Should You Capitalize Cocktail and Food Names?

Is it “bloody mary” or “Bloody Mary”? Or “Swiss Cheese” or “swiss cheese”?

By
Mignon Fogarty,
March 11, 2011
Episode #266

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What Is the Chicago Style for Cocktail Names?

The best advice I can give you is to pick a style and be consistent.

It turns out that whether you capitalize names of food or drinks that contain proper nouns is a style choice. The Chicago Manual of Style has the clearest rule: don’t capitalize these terms unless the names literally refer to the city or person. For example, Chicago says don’t capitalize “swiss cheese” unless you’re talking about cheese that comes from Switzerland. Following the Chicago rules, you wouldn’t capitalize the “french” in “french fries” or the “irish” in “irish coffee.”

What Is the Merriam-Webster Style for Cocktail Names?

Chicago does note, however, that they are in conflict with their own recommended dictionary, Webster’s Third, and indeed, the Merriam-Webster dictionary website recommends capitalizing “Bloody Mary,” the “Irish” in “Irish coffee,” and the “Swiss” in “Swiss cheese.” That’s why I was confused. I was looking for the answer in dictionaries that make individual determinations about the capitalization of each food or cocktail name instead of having a blanket rule.

The best advice I can give you when deciding whether to capitalize cocktails or other foods and drinks is to pick a style and be consistent. I’m going to follow Chicago style from now on because it’s the simplest.

Next: A Chart of How Different Style Guides Handle Food and Cocktail Names

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