The Silver Bullet: Werewolves, Miracles & Martinis


silver bullet, n.

[‘ A bullet made of silver. Freq. with reference to the folk tradition that such a bullet can harm a werewolf (or other supernatural being) whereas an ordinary bullet cannot.‘]

Pronunciation: Brit. /ˌsɪlvə ˈbʊlᵻt/,  U.S. /ˌsɪlvər ˈbʊlət/

Etymology: <  silver adj. + bullet n.1

Here is something about how silver bullets both CREATE and DESTROY witches from the American Journal of Folklore on Google Books.The link tells us that this is an old “folk remedy” which I guess came over from the Old Country.


 1. a. A bullet made of silver. Freq. with reference to the folk tradition that such a bullet can harm a werewolf (or other supernatural being) whereas an ordinary bullet cannot.

  1. 1648  ‘Theophilus P.’ Salus Populi 12 Let there be an Instrument made into which two silver Bullets, and two golden Bullets are put.
  2. 1678 Tryals W. Ireland, T. Pickering, & J. Grove for Murder 23 They had Silver Bullets to shoot with, and Grove would have had the Bullets to be Champt, for fear that if he should Shoot, if the Bullets were Round, the Wound that might be given might be Cured.
  3. 1772  J. Trumbull Progr. Dulness iii, in Poet. Wks.(1820) II. 84 So witches, hunters say, confound ’em, For silver bullets only wound ’em.
  4. 1808  Scott in Lockhart(1869) III. xviii. 159, I..have only hopes that he may be shot with a silver bullet.
  5. 1895 Atlantic Monthly Jan. 139/1, I found him engaged in the task of moulding a silver bullet out of a half dollar.
  6. 1915 Jrnl. Royal Anthropol. Inst. 45 52 Abu-Bakar tells me that he saw the Chief of the Damaraghu fighting against the French..and that several bullets hit him, but rebounded and fell to the ground. Only a silver bullet could have wounded him.
  7. 1991  R. R. McCammon Boy’s Life i. i. 8 My silver bullet, forged by the Lone Ranger for a werewolf hunter.
  1.  b. fig. A simple, miraculous solution to a complex and difficult problem. Also (Med.): = magic bullet n.

  1. 1951 Bedford (Pa.) Gaz. 19 Sept. 1/3 There are those who warn against viewing the atom as a magic weapon… I agree. This is not a silver bullet which can deliver itself or otherwise work military miracles.

  2. 1971 Chron.-Telegram (Elyria, Ohio) 18 Mar. 18/4 Drug abuse, as virtually every other major problem, is multicausative and not given to simplistic silver bullet solutions.

  3. 1994 Equinox June 55/1 The modern approach to controlling disease—..wiping out pathogens with silver-bullet drugs—has sometimes backfired..because it has created drug resistance in the organisms.

  4. 2003 Independent 27 Dec. i. 8/6 We do not consider any one fraud detection system in isolation to be a ‘silver bullet’.

 2. In pl. Originally: civilian money invested in a war effort; war securities. In later use chiefly: money used to achieve military aims, as an alternative or adjunct to direct military action. Now rare.

  1. 1914  D. Lloyd George Speech Treasury in Times 9 Sept. 9/6 We have won with the silver bullets before.
  2. 1916 Times 18 Feb. 3/2 Invest the savings in buying ‘Silver Bullets’ in the form most suitable and convenient—Exchequer bonds, scrip, or through the Post Office Savings Bank.
  3. 1917 Oakland (Calif.) Tribune 11 Oct. 18/2 Liberty Bond slogans, the appeal of young America to their elders for ‘silver bullets’ to fight the battle of liberty, will be prominently displayed.
  4. 1938 Pacific Affairs 11 116 Thirty Nanking Planes bombed the railways station at Weinan… ‘Silver bullets’ were used simultaneously, for the venerable Chairman of the Control Yuan..rushed to Shensi..to present General Feng Ching-tsai..with a million Chinese dollars.
  5. 1942 N.Y. Times 21 Jan. 1/7 Thailand capitulated with scarcely a shot fired… Air bases and supply depots sprang up so quickly that many observers suspected the conquest was made with ‘silver bullets’

3. slang. Any of various cocktails made with gin or vodka; (now) spec. a martini.

  1. 1930  H. Craddock Savoy Cocktail Bk. 148 Silver bullet cocktail. ½ Gin. ¼ Lemon Juice. ¼ Kummel. Shake well and strain into cocktail glass.
  2. 1980  G. V. Higgins Kennedy for Def. xiv. 123 ”Nother dose of them silver bullets..’ Lurieen said, waving her martini glass.
  3. 1996  J. Lanchester Debt to Pleasure(1997) 41 The absence of ice means that the Auden martini is not diluted in any way, and thus truly earns the drink its sobriquet ‘the silver bullet’.
  4. 2004 N.Y. Times Mag. 25 Apr. 28/2 And when Richard Nixon said, ‘How about a silver bullet?’ he was offering you a very cold, dry martini.
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The recipe for the Silver Bullet follows
  1. 2 1/2 oz gin
  2. 1 1/2 tsp Scotch whisky
  3. 1 twist lemon peel


In a mixing glass half-filled with ice cubes, combine the gin and Scotch.
Stir well. Strain into a shot glass. Garnish with a lemon twist.
Other recipes, put the Scotch in first to coat the few ice cubes and glass.  They then stir this.  Then  add the gin ontop, stirring lightly with a different twizzler.  Lemon twist is always the garnish.
I did not find a reference of the 1930 Silver bullet recipe or the Auden one.