A note in "Random Samples" in the July 9 Science relates how in graduate school, evolutionary biologist James Harriman
wondered whether [quirks of personal taste in drinks] evolve into popular cocktails much as mutations give rise to new species, through a sort of taste-based natural selection.
So Harriman, now a visiting scientist at Cornell University, fired up a computer program for generating phylogenetic trees. Instead of genes, he plugged in the ingredients of 100 cocktails, taking vodka as the tree's common ancestor. The program divided cocktails into several distinct families–drinks based on champagne or Irish cream , for example, or punch bowl drinks … A poster of the tree, which doubles as a mixology guide, is available online [for $20] from ThinkGeek.
Such programs do phylogenetic reconstruction based on the Darwinian assumption of descent with modification from a common ancestor. The trick is in the mathematics, of course, but otherwise this is the program of comparative reconstruction suggested to Darwin by the achievements of 19th-century historical linguistics (and ultimately traceable back to the reasoning used by philologists in studying manuscript descent), though in these other applications there is usually no stipulating the common ancestor (vodka in the cocktail case).
The poster as reproduced in Science is too small to be legible, and the one on the ThinkGeek site is, if anything, even less clear. Going to the piece on the sciencemag site doesn't help, and there are no further links there, so for the moment all I know is what I just told you.
I did find this statement by Jim Harriman on the Radaris site (presumably from LinkedIn), which tells you something about his research at Cornell, but nothing about the cocktail project:
I use bioinformatic algorithms to find the genes responsible for valuable traits in wine grapes. We can then test for these genes at each generation of a grape breeding program, so that the plants can be bred faster and more accurately. Ultimately, we will be able to grow new varieties that are resistant to disease, drought, or climate change. They will also be 100% organic, created only by conventional breeding.
I pursued these things only because of a (distantly) potential ambiguity in "the program divided cocktails into several distinct families". I'm sure the intended interpretation is that in the output of the program, cocktails were divided into several families, but it's also possible to read the clause as saying that the input of the program had the cocktails divided into families.
In any case, cultural artefacts (like cocktails, or for that matter lexica and manuscripts) are, in principle, just as eligible for comparative reconstruction (including subgrouping) as natural entities (like species as determined by "characters" or by genes) are — though I have no doubt that there are many difficulties and pitfalls in carrying over the procedures of reconstruction from one case to another. But none of this is an area of expertise for me; I'm just an interested outsider.