A cocktail is an alcoholic mixed drink, which is either a combination of spirits, or one or more spirits mixed with other ingredients such as fruit juice, flavored syrup, or cream.
There are various types of cocktails, based on the number and kind of ingredients added.
People have been mixing drinks for centuries, often to make an ingredient more palatable or to create medicinal elixirs.
It wasn’t until the 17th and 18th centuries that the precursors of the cocktail (e.g., slings, fizzes, toddies, and juleps) became popular enough to be recorded in the history books.
Though it’s unclear where, who, and what went into the creation of the original cocktail, it started out as a specific drink formula rather than a category of mixed drinks.
The origins of the word “cocktail” have been debated. The first written mention of cocktail as a beverage appeared in The Farmers Cabinet, 1803 in the United States. The first definition of a cocktail as an alcoholic beverage appeared three years later in The Balance and Columbian Repository (Hudson, New York) May 13, 1806. Traditionally, cocktail ingredients included spirits, sugar, water and bitters, however, this definition evolved throughout the 1800s, to include the addition of a liqueur.
The first publication of a bartenders’ guide which included cocktail recipes was in 1862 – How to Mix Drinks – or, The Bon Vivant’s Companion, by “Professor” Jerry Thomas. In addition to recipes for punches, sours, slings, cobblers, shrubs, toddies, flips, and a variety of other mixed drinks were 10 recipes for “cocktails”. A key ingredient differentiating cocktails from other drinks in this compendium was the use of bitters. Mixed drinks popular today that conform to this original meaning of “cocktail” include the Old Fashioned whiskey cocktail, the Sazerac cocktail, and the Manhattan cocktail.
Cocktail shakers were invented in the late 1860s, and since ice was more available than it had been previously, the proper way to ice a drink became important. Drink manuals specified that some drinks be shaken, others mixed in a glass and stirred with a fork rather than a spoon.
Cocktails continued to evolve and gain popularity throughout the 1900s, and in 1917 the term “cocktail party” was coined by Mrs. Julius S. Walsh Jr. of St. Louis, Missouri.
In London, hotels and restaurants opened American bars and served American cocktails. They even hired American bartenders, especially after Prohibition went into effect in the United States in 1920.
With wine and beer being less available during the Prohibition in the United States (1920–1933), liquor-based cocktails became more popular due to accessibility.
Cocktails became less popular in the late 1960s and through the 1970s, until resurging in the 1980s with vodka often substituting the original gin in drinks such as the martini.
The early to mid-2000s saw the rise of cocktail culture through the style of mixology which mixes traditional cocktails and other novel ingredients.
In the modern world, mixed drinks such as the Old Fashioned, the Sazerac and the Manhattan are the closest versions of the original cocktail.
The old fashioned is a cocktail made by muddling sugar with bitters and water, adding whiskey or, less commonly, brandy, and garnishing with orange slice or zest and a cocktail cherry. It is traditionally served in an old fashioned glass (also known as rocks glass), which predated the cocktail.
The Sazerac is a local variation of a cognac or whiskey cocktail originally from New Orleans, named for the Sazerac de Forge et Fils brand of cognac brandy that served as its original main ingredient. The drink is most traditionally a combination of cognac or rye whiskey, absinthe, Peychaud’s Bitters, and sugar, although bourbon whiskey is sometimes substituted for the rye and Herbsaint is sometimes substituted for the absinthe. Some claim it is the oldest known American cocktail, with origins in pre–Civil War New Orleans, although drink historian David Wondrich is among those who dispute this, and American instances of published usage of the word cocktail to describe a mixture of spirits, bitters, and sugar can be traced to the dawn of the 19th century.
A Manhattan is a cocktail made with whiskey, sweet vermouth, and bitters. While rye is the traditional whiskey of choice, other commonly used whiskies include Canadian whisky, bourbon, blended whiskey, and Tennessee whiskey. The cocktail is usually stirred then strained into a cocktail glass and garnished traditionally with a maraschino cherry. A Manhattan may also be served on the rocks in a lowball glass.
A cosmopolitan, or informally a cosmo, is a cocktail made with vodka, triple sec, cranberry juice, and freshly squeezed or sweetened lime juice.
The Mojito complimenting summer perfectly with a fresh minty taste. The mixture of white rum, mint, lime juice, sugar and soda water is crisp and clean with a relatively low alcohol content, the soda water can be replaced with sprite or 7-up. When preparing a mojito always crush the mint leaves as opposed to dicing to unlock oils that will assist with enhancing the minty flavour.