A brief history of cocktails

A Brief History Of Cocktail

Official Definition: What does it mean? Really, what does it mean?

So, what is a cocktail anyway? We hear the term all the time no doubt but what would be considered the “official” definition of a “cocktail”? Well according to the dictionary a cocktail is suppose to be “an iced drink of wine or distilled liquor mixed with flavoring ingredients.” Wow, that’s a pretty broad definition and it pretty much seems to refer to any kind of mixed drink.

The first definition of Cocktail
The first definition of Cocktail

The Balance & Columbian Repository of 1806: Cocktail Definition

The very first definition for cocktail that was ever published was in an editorial response in what was known as The Balance and Columbian Repository of 1806 and this is what it said about a cocktail “Cocktail is a stimulating liquor, composed of spirits of any kind, sugar, water and bitters.” So, to believe it or not, this is the definition that we tend to use more often when referring to the “ideal” cocktail even today and not the dictionary version.

The First Cocktail Ever Made

When was the cocktail first created? Well, it seems that people have been mixing drinks for many centuries however, it wasn’t until the 17th and 18th centuries that the true cocktail emerged with names like Slings, Fizzes, Toddies and Juleps. It was when these drinks became popular that the cocktail began being recorded in the history books.

Where did the name “Cocktail” come from?

There are a variety of different stories on where the actual name cocktail came from and some may sound ridiculous and others believable, no one truly knows where the name came from but some of the stories are truly interesting.

One really popular story behind the name cocktail is that it refers to a rooster’s tail or cock tail and that the cock tail was supposed to have been used as a Colonial garnish for their drinks. However, there are no formal references in any recipes showing the use of a cock’s tail as a garnish.

Another rooster theory is suppose to be that it was influenced by the colors of the mixed ingredients which may have resembled the colors of a cock’s tail, as good as this sounds, it turns out that in those days spirits were usually very visually bland.

Another idea came from a British publication called Bartender and in 1936 they gave credit to English sailors who decades before, were served mixed drinks in Mexico and the drinks were stirred with cock’s tail or Cola de Gallo which is actually a long root that has a similar shape to that of a birds tail.

There’s a quirky story about an American tavern keeper who would store his alcohol in a ceramic rooster shaped container and when his customers wanted another round to drink they would tap the rooster’s tail of the container.

Some say that the name cocktail came from the French term for egg cup or coquetel. There is one story that seems to have an American reference to it when they talk about Antoine Amedie Peychaud of New Orleans who mixed his Peychaud bitters into a stomach remedy that was served in a coquetel. Not all of his customers could pronounce this word right and eventually it became known as cocktail.

In truth, it seems that no one really knows where the word cocktail truly came from just that it has been around for several centuries with no questions asked, just that they knew that cocktail meant they were going to be drinking a combination of alcoholic beverages that would improve their moods at parties and other social gatherings.

Genius of the Cocktail World “Professor” Jerry Thomas

Professor Jerry Thomas cocktail genius
Professor Jerry Thomas Cocktail Genius

In the 1800’s the cocktail had become extremely popular and there was one particular bartender that really stood out by the name of “Professor” Jerry Thomas, in fact he was the best known bartender of the 1800’s and he created the very first bartending guide called “How to Mix Drinks”. Not only could he make a mean cocktail but he was known to be quite the colorful character behind the bar and is responsible for creating as well as refining many of the classic cocktails like his very own flaming Blue Blazer, Blood and Sand, Brandy Cocktail, Coffee Cocktail, Eggnog, Hot Toddy, Bloody Mary, Bee’s Knees, Gin Fizz, Highball plus much more and then there was his preference to use rimmed cocktail glasses for his Whiskey Cocktails. Thomas turned out to be one of the biggest influences when it comes to today’s modern mixology and the cocktail.

So what do you think about cocktails? We would love to hear your thoughts in the comment section below. If you like this article then please follow and like us using the social media buttons below.

Guinness World Records: Making the worlds oldest Cocktail video

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