Who came up with the idea of putting paper umbrellas in cocktails?
An amusing article from Metroactive suggests the umbrella may have originated at a famed Bay Area bar named Trader Vic's.
The Straight Dope's digging provided more clues. According to Peter Seely, grandson of the founder, "never in its history had Trader Vic's served a drink with a cocktail umbrella." However the founder's son contradicts this, saying Trader Vic's did indeed serve cocktails with umbrellas until the early 1940s.
While the folks at Trader Vic's may have made the paper umbrella what it is today, they didn't come up with the original idea. According to several sources, Vic's "borrowed" the decoration from a chap named Don the Beachcomber.
Don, Vic, whatever. The real question is, where did these guys get the umbrellas? They didn't make 'em themselves, did they? Though there's no definitive evidence, many believe the umbrellas were a Chinese American invention, possibly designed to shield ice cubes from the sun.
Whoever it was, he or she can take pride in the fact their invention is a part of every mai tai and just as important as the rum. Cheers to that.
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