Cocktails might seem like a modern invention, but they actually date back over a couple of centuries. Although they look and taste different today, even the earliest cocktails involved mixing alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages to create a new, exciting drink.
The early cocktail
People have enjoyed mixing drinks together for a very long time. We’re not actually certain what original cocktails included. However, early connotations refer to a cocktail as a specific drink, rather than a number of mixed drinks.
Far from being an American invention, cocktails quickly gained inspiration on British soil. Punch houses in the 18th century served spirits mixed with juices, spices and other flavourings in large bowls.
An article dating back to 1803 in the Farmer’s Cabinet contains the first printed reference to the word ‘cocktail’. It talks about someone drinking a glass of cocktail as being excellent for the head (presumably as a hair of the dog cure).
In 1806, New York’s The Balance and Columbian Repository printed the first published definition of ‘cocktail’. It described it as a ‘stimulating liquor composed of spirits, sugar, water and bitters’.
This definition pretty much still rings true today. Although, modern cocktails often contain a wide range of spirits, liqueur, juices, soda, flavours and garnishes. They often include edible ingredients like fruit or mint, and non-edible items such as umbrella sticks, straws or plastic stirrers.
Origins of the name: cocktails
It’s not entirely clear where the name ‘cocktail’ comes from.
A popular claim is that the word cocktail relates to a rooster’s tail. This could’ve been used to garnish or stir drinks in times gone by.
Others argue that the word originates from the colours made when the cocktail ingredients are mixed together. This colour could have resembled the tail colour of a rooster. However, cocktails of yesteryear tended to be clear in colour, so this theory is refutable.
Whatever the true origin of the word, people continue to enjoy sampling different cocktail flavours today, just as much as they did in the past.
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