A History Lesson With Booze ®

The Birth of the Bikini

Spanish painter Pablo Picasso (1881 - 1973) makes a young woman wearing a bikini smile on the beach at Golfe Juan on the Riviera, Vallauris, France, 1960s. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Had “Sports Illustrated” existed in 1900, its swimsuit issue would not have been especially titillating. Back then, the standard lady’s swimsuit wasn’t much different than her everyday clothes. It was basically a dress, plus a hat and even shoes.

By World War II, with fabric in short supply, slightly more revealing two-piece numbers were considered okay. But even they didn’t expose anything so scandalous as a — gasp! — Belly button.

But post-war? A couple of Frenchmen sensed the world was ready to loosen up. The first of them — one Jacques Heim — designed a two-piece so tiny he called it “l’atome.” The Atom.

But Heim was one-upped by his countryman, Louis Reard. On July 5th, 1946, he unveiled an even tinier suit: “The Bikini.” Named after a Pacific island atoll where, four days earlier, an atomic bomb had been tested. Reard claimed he had quote “split The Atom.”

Public reactions were … extreme. Reard got 50,000 fan letters thanking him for the invention. Mostly from men. But in some countries, shocked lawmakers instated bikini bans. Reard happily embraced the controversy. In ads, he said bikinis were small enough to be quote “pulled through a wedding ring.

Soon, the anti-bikini lobby collapsed as the suit became popular on beaches all over Europe … And finally — in 1960 — in the U.S.A.  The same year singer Brian Hyland scored a number-one hit about a girl too embarrassed to be seen in one.

The Booze

The Nuclear Bikini

Photo credit: Elana Lepkowski, stirandstrain.com

Drink in the sun with this atomic cocktail, combined by Thibault Guincet, bar manager of La Famille in Paris, where the bikini was first revealed.

Inspired by the Bikini Atoll nuclear test and Louis Reard’s claim he “split the atom,” the drink comes in two parts: one to represent a bomb, the other to represent the bikini.


For the “bomb”:

  • 4cl Sailor Jerry spiced rum
  • Spicy vanilla-clove-cinnamon sugar
  • Lemongrass
  • 1.5cl soda water

For the “bikini”:

  • 3cl Fresh apple
  • 6cl Cranberry juice
  • Fresh basil leaves
  • 2.5cl St-Germain elderflower liqueur

Using a two-chamber cocktail glass, start by filling the round lower bowl (the “bomb”) with the spiced rum.  Add a bit of the spiced sugar and lemongrass, top with soda water, stir, and add ice to glass.

Then, in a cocktail shaker, muddle the apple and basil. Add the cranberry juice and St. Germaine, stir and strain into the upper chamber for the “bikini.”

Before placing the top cone into the bowl, add a bit of liquid nitrogen to the lower rum mixture to give the effect of  bomb-like “smoke.” Place the top cone into the bottom bowl and serve, letting the guest pour the “bikini” into the “bomb” before drinking.  Watch their mind get blown.