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The Molotov Cocktail: One Cocktail You Don't Want To Drink

Angela loves history and feels it is essential to our future to know the past—or else we're destined to repeat it.

Different Molotov Cocktails displayed at a museum in London.

Different Molotov Cocktails displayed at a museum in London.

The Molotov Cocktail is not a cocktail ordered at a restaurant; instead, it is a homemade bomb, often known as the Molotov Bomb. The explosive gets its name due to the bottle container used. Gasoline or another flammable product fills the bottle with a wick sticking out. They are treated much like a hand grenade, where the person lights it then tosses them at their opponent, awaiting the explosion. It does not as instantly destructive as a grenade; instead, it sets the target on fire, slowly burning its way to destruction. A thickening substance is added to the cocktail to make sure it catches fire and stays ablaze. It became popular due to its cheapness to make and the availability of its supplies.

What's in a Name?

Molotov Cocktail got its name from Vyacheslav Mikhailovich Molotov. During World War II, Molotov was the people's commissar for foreign affairs in the Soviet Union. He was neither the creator nor the first to use them. It was named to mock him because the Finnish Army would use them against him and the Soviet Union during the Winter War and Continuation War. They even mass-produced them, dubbing them Molotov cocktails.

When first coined after Vyacheslav Molotov, the Finns had claimed they were sending bread baskets to the staving Soviets. Instead, they sent down a massive bomb and called it the "Molotov Bread Baskets." As they sent them, they often would say, "a drink to go with the food."

Soldiers first used Molotov cocktails in the Spanish Civil War in 1936-1939. Spaniard General Francisco Franco had encouraged many to use these against the Soviet tanks throughout this time. However, they called it by a different name, most likely a firebomb, fire bottle, petrol bomb, or gasoline bomb.

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How It Works

Usually, a glass pop bottle or wine bottle, partially filled with an explosive product, makes up a Molotov Cocktail. Typically, gasoline or other flammable product like alcohol would cause an explosion. Then the top is sealed airtight with rubber or another item that would allow an airtight seal.

A wick or a rag is placed sticking out of the bottle through the seal yet touching the fluid. The cloth or wick is lit, then thrown towards the enemy. When the bottle shatters, the gasoline spreads through the air, which will cause an explosion. In war, they often will throw it at a tank or vehicle, which will maximize the damage to their opponent. Some thickening products commonly used in the Molotov Cocktail are sugar, tar, egg whites, animal blood, motor oil, rubber cement, or dish soap, allowing the fire to burn longer and cause more damage. Without this, the fire may end before any damage happens.

Modern Uses of It

The Molotov Cocktail still is made today. On April 20, 1999, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold entered their High School in Columbine; then Harris threw a Molotov bomb in the library. Fortunately, it did not explode. Unfortunately, the one thrown in the cafeteria by Klebold did explode. Fortunately, fire sprinklers distinguished it.

Molotov cocktails are prevalent in both movies and video games, and war. Although they have become less common now that there are more high-tech advancements in weaponry, they still provide quite the bang!


© 2010 Angela Michelle Schultz

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