A History Lesson With Booze ®

Twister’s Tangled Origin Tale

Around this time in 1966, two guys in the Twin Cities dreamt up a party game that had people falling all over each other.

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A boy and girl play the game Twister, as other young people watch in a paneled living room, circa 1968. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

The history of the game Twister is… well, kinda twisty.

On one hand, you have Neil Rabens and Charles Foley. Back in the ’60s, they worked together at a design agency in St. Paul, Minnesota, where they were hired to dream up games. At some point, they tossed colored pieces of paper on the floor and realized a mat of colors could be the game board — with the players themselves as pieces.

Rabens’ and Foley’s names appear on the Twister patent, but they never earned royalties for the game. Those went to Reynolds Guyer — their boss — who says he got the original idea for Twister while working on a promotional display for shoe polish featuring multicolored polka dots.

Whoever’s idea it was, everyone involved predicted the unique game would be a big hit. So they were shocked when stores like Sears wouldn’t feature it in their catalogs. In an era when dancing was the only acceptable way for people to touch in public, retailers were wary of selling “sex in a box.”

Sales were slow… until May 3, 1966. That night, millions watched as host Johnny Carson on “The Tonight Show” played a round of Twister with his sexy guest Eva Gabor. America was amused, and, yes, probably titillated. By the end of the year, three million Twister games had sold.

Foley went on to design a liquid adhesive remover called “Un-du.” Guyers went on to help develop a little item called the Nerf ball. And America, of course, did not suddenly become one big Twister-fueled orgy. In the ’90s, Foley said, “Once you get men and women in play positions… you forget the sex thing. The urge to win takes over.”

King’s Footsie

Nick's freshly made cocktail. (Photo by Brendan)
Nick’s freshly made cocktail. (Photo by Brendan)
Photo credit: Elana Lepkowski, stirandstrain.com
Photo credit: Elana Lepkowski, stirandstrain.com

Assembled by Nick Kosevich, a Twin Cities cocktail kingpin who co-founded the artisanal bitters company Bittercube.


  • 2 ounces  Gamle Ode Celebration Aquavit (to “represent the Scandinavian nature of the Twin Cities”)
  • 3/4 ounce fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • 3/4 ounce ginger syrup
  • 2 drops Cherry Bark Vanilla Bitters
  • Pea flower extract
  • Hibiscus and/or Aleppo pepper extract
  • Basil oil*
  • Saffron oil*

[*Ed note: The two oils were made by Nick Kosevich himself. Other flavored oils that might contain color will work well too.]

Shake up Aquavit, lemon juice, ginger syrup and bitters together and pour into a coupe glass. Then add one drop of each of the four oils to recreate the Twister mat in drink form.

  • cgaar

    OK, I’ll bite. I found a way to get the cherry bark bitters, and the Aquavit from a friend in Minneapolis. But how about some help with the oils? I have searched for them and all I get are weird oils for uses that dont look like consumption. Do you have any suggestions about where to get the pea flower oil, the hibiscus oil, the alpeppo oil, basil oil or the Saffron oil? The stuff I can find on the internet is for hair care and skin care, not something I want to put in a drink.

    • Rico Gagliano

      Yes, thank you for NOT putting hair care products in the drink, potentially getting poisoned, and then sueing us! Try contacting Nick at Bittercube for help in finding the right stuff: nick@bittercube.com

    • http://www.dinnerpartydownload.org Kristina Lopez

      Hey @cgaar:disqus, two of the oils (basil and saffron) were made by Nick and we’ll add on a note to the recipe indicating that. The other two are actually extracts, which can be purchased online. He also offered up this chili oil (http://amzn.to/1EFMhz0), in case it was difficult to find hibiscus extract. He also suggested searching for other flavored oils that contain the same colors as alternatives to the ones listed here.

  • Jeremy Olsen

    So what happened to the Aviator history lesson and cocktail that was actually featured on the live show at the Fitz? Why make a different segment for the podcast?

    • Rico Gagliano

      Hi Jeremy! The reason is that the “Douglas Corrigan” tale you witnessed in the live show had a bunch of sight gags (remember the slide we projected of the backwards headline, for instance?)… which, you know, don’t translate so well on radio. That’s the benefit of actually seeing us live, though — you’re among the few who got to witness it, you lucky.

      • Jeremy Olsen

        I guess that makes sense.
        The live show was great, when are you going to be back at the Fitz?