A History Lesson With Booze ®

Rubik’s Cube’s Puzzling Past

This month marks the 72nd birthday of the inventor of an object that infuriated millions. Learn all about the Rubik of Rubik's cube, then toast to his birthday with tart cocktail.

By Gabriel Rocha from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (Rubik's Cube Brazil) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

The History Lesson

One of the most popular toys in the free world was created in the unfree world.

Via Wikimedia Commons
Photo of Ernő Rubik By Babak Mansouri [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
It was 1974. In the Soviet-bloc country of Hungary, a design professor named Ernő Rubik — barely 30 and still living with his parents — made himself a little wooden gizmo: a cube, made up of a bunch of little cubes.

Some say Rubik wanted to use it to demonstrate spatial relationships to his students. Others say he just wanted to see if he could make all the cubes move around without the whole thing falling apart. Either way, he quickly realized if you made each side a different color, and scrambled it up, it made for a tricky little puzzle.

Like, really tricky. It took him a month to solve the thing. But people loved it despite the difficulty, according to Rubik, because it was more of a tactile work of art than a puzzle. Soon he was selling a mass-produced plastic version all over Hungary. He called it “Buvos Kocka.” The “Magic Cube.”

Alas, to sell the cube outside the Iron Curtain required real magic. The Soviet Union tightly controlled exports. So Rubik’s mathematician pals helped spread the word… by bringing cubes along to conferences abroad. And, after a Hungarian expat demonstrated one at a German toy fair, Ideal Toy Company signed on to distribute the cube in the west. On one condition: that they change the name.

Rubik’s Cube went on to become the best-selling puzzle game in the world. Possibly the best-selling toy, period. And it gave rise to a new sport: “speedcubing.”

Last year, the puzzle it took Rubik a month to solve was completed by one Jakub Kipa, in under 21 seconds… using his feet.

The Booze

The Ruby Q


Mixed up by Zoltán Nagy, owner and bar manager of Boutiq’ Bar, in Budapest, where Ernő Rubik was from.

1 1/2 ounces Unicum
3/4 ounce Morello sour cherry puree
1/2 ounce Cinnamon syrup
1/2 ounce Freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 1/2 ounces Cranberry juice

Combine ingredients and either shake in a cocktail shaker, or stir. Then pour over ice.