Today we’re celebrating the invention of the Drinking Bird novelty toy by mixing up the Salty Bird cocktail. It’s an important milestone in toy history, as June 18, 1946 was the day US Patent 2402463 was issued to Miles Sullivan for a “novelty device” in the form of an ever-bobbing bird that remains popular to this day.
The benefit, of course, is that so long as the drinking bird can reach the drink it will keep bobbing but will not actually consume your cocktail. That’s your job, but the bird provides amusement along the way.
Here at The Drunkard’s Almanac we feel a certain kinship with the Drinking Bird because, well, it’ll pursue a good stiff drink like a Martini faster than a glass of water. Just like us. It may rank below the Whoopee Cushion among mankind’s greatest inventions, but the Drinking Bird is still good for hours of family fun.
Miles Sullivan and the Drinking Bird
Miles Sullivan was born on August 19, 1917 in Fargo, North Dakota. Obviously thinking there were better places to hang out he eventually went to Wabash Collage in Indiana. After a WWII stint he went back to school and received a Ph.D. in Physical Chemistry. He worked at the legendary Bell Labs, where researchers won Nobel prizes and things like transistors and lasers were invented.
So while you might have thought the Drinking Bird was the product of some teenager in the garage it was actually a bona fide scientist with an obvious mastery of thermodynamics working at one of the world’s most prestigious labs. It’s unclear whether he invented the Drinking Bird at work, but Bell Labs never pursued legal remedy for the patent issued to Sullivan as an individual. (Clearly there’s something about highly qualified engineers and toys. Lonnie Johnson, the inventor of the Super Soaker, is a nuclear engineer.)
In case you’re wondering, the Drinking Bird is not a perpetual motion machine. It’s really just a heat engine, taking advantage of evaporative cooling of its wetted head to create a thermal gradient. Albert Einstein apparently spent three and a half months studying the Drinking Bird to no avail. Then again, thermodynamics wasn’t Einstein’s thing.
Naturally, Drinking Birds have been prevalent in popular culture. Homer Simpson used one to repeatedly press a computer keyboard. They appeared in the old TV show Mission Impossible, the 1979 film Alien and 1989’s hit When Harry Met Sally.
The Salty Bird Cocktail
While there are any number of tiki drinks related to birds, many of them are a bit on the fussy side or contain items like Blackstrap rum that you may not have at hand. Hence we decided to go with the Salty Bird as Drink of the Day.
The Salty Bird cocktail was created by Lauren Schell while she was at The Everleigh in Melbourne, Australia, and then went on to work at the famous Milk & Honey and Little Branch bars in New York. She knows what she’s doing.
The Salty Bird is really like a mix of a Salty Dog and a Jungle Bird, the latter of which we had to celebrate Malaysia’s independence. It’s got a bit of salty-sweet combined with pineapple and grapefruit flavors, and is a refreshing warm weather drink.
- Collins or Highball Glass
- Add all ingredients to your trusty cocktail shaker.
- Add ice and shake until frosty cold.
- Strain into ice filled highball or Collins glass.
- Top with crushed ice.
- Garnish with a pineapple wedge and fresh mint.