Molotov cocktail

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A Molotov cocktail is not an alcoholic drink, and is a confusing term to some people. We will examine the definition of the term Molotov cocktail, where it came from and some examples of its use in sentences.

A Molotov cocktail is a sort of homemade bomb or incendiary device, which creates an explosion and fire. Other names for the Molotov cocktail are bottle bomb, gas bomb, or poor man’s grenade. A Molotov cocktail is created by pouring a flammable substance into a glass bottle. This flammable substance may be gasoline, alcohol, turpentine or a mixture similar to napalm. The bottle is then stuffed with a wick consisting of a rag or strip of cloth soaked in a flammable liquid. The strip of cloth is set afire, and the Molotov cocktail is thrown at the target. The glass container will shatter on impact, and the mist of droplets that scatter may cause a small fire, or the incendiary projectile may set fire to a large area. The Molotov cocktail is a favorite weapon of protesters, rioters and disenfranchised people, as it is cheap and easily mass produced and transported, but can be quite destructive. It is popular as an anti-tank explosive used against the enemy in guerrilla warfare or for purposes of terrorism. The expression Molotov cocktail was coined by Finnish troops in the Winter War, a conflict fought between Finland and Russia in 1939. At the time, the Russian foreign minister was  Vyacheslav Molotov, who attempted to obtain Finnish territory. During the war, Molotov declared that Russian bombing missions flown over Finland were delivering food. The Finns found this insulting as it was not true, and the Finns called the Russian bombs Molotov bread baskets. The Finns used this improvised firebomb as a cheap weapon to fight Russian tanks, and dubbed them Molotov cocktails, saying they were drinks to go with the Molotov bread baskets. The Molotov cocktail was first used in warfare the Spanish Civil War, though at that time they were simply referred to as petrol bombs. Note that the term Molotov cocktail is properly rendered with an uppercase M for the word Molotov, as it is a proper name, though the word cocktail is rendered with a lowercase c. The plural form is Molotov cocktails.


An Orange County man is under arrest after allegedly throwing Molotov cocktails at his own vehicle inside of an impound lot, according to an arrest report. (The Atlanta Journal Constitution)

Terrorists threw a Molotov cocktail at a bus on the Gush Etzion road near Hebron on Thursday, Israeli media reported. (The Jerusalem Post)

The suspect had a Molotov cocktail made out of a Kahlúa bottle in his house, federal agents say. (The Detroit Free Press)

Tear gas and water cannons were also used in Bordeaux and Toulouse, where some protestors marched behind a “cacatov party” banner – a play on Molotov cocktail firebombs – encouraging people to throw “poo-bombs” at police. (The Daily Express)