Take a boozy trip back in time, exploring the roots of everyone's favorite social accessory: the cocktail.
The of the word "cocktail" as it pertained to a liquor-based beverage can be traced back to 1806. While the origin of the word is widely disputed, cocktail connoisseur that one story attributes the moniker to the practice of administering ginger suppositories to horses, which would cause the animal to "cock up its tail and be frisky."
Another myth states that back in New Orleans, during the early years of the cocktail's birth, bartenders would use a double-ended egg cup (coquetier) as a measuring tool, and by way of the New Orleans drawl, the term "cocktail" made its entrance into the English language.
According to other sources, however, the true origins of the cocktail's story take us just a bit further back...
Wondrich that punch was "the first popular mixed drink to incorporate distilled spirits." And popular it was, especially among the British East India Company's naval crowd, a thirsty bunch likely responsible for its . So goes the lore:
Upon discovering that beer could not withstand the temperatures of the cargo bays of the Indian Ocean, sailors began mi rum with citrus and spices found on the shores of their exotic destinations, and punch as we know it is officially .
Punch sees its official published mention in 1632, and by the 1650s it becomes the standard tipple of sailors and traders far and wide.
Just before the turn of the century, the milk punch category is said to have been initially created by , an astoundingly dynamic figure in history who is counted among the world's first females to have an established writing career. What is thought to be the first recorded mention can be found in William Sacheverell's writings on Iona.
The clear English milk punch starts as a mixture of rum, sugar, and citrus, to which spices and hot milk are added until the milk curdles in the infusion. The drink is then strained until clear. Just for fun, check out Benjamin Franklin's 1763 recipe .
New York bartender and Atlantico Rum ambassador Jeremy Hawn chimes in with a few factoids on some of the world's first known cocktails: "All of the proto-cocktails that predate the cocktail era were made with rum, which was much more prominent than whiskey and was a driving force of the colonial economy," says Hawn. "Flips date back as early as 1690 and were the first mixed alcoholic drinks aside from punches as far as we know. They originally consisted of beer (or sometimes cider), rum, and either molasses, sugar, dried pumpkin, or another sweetening agent. They were mixed in pitchers or large mugs and heated with a red hot poker called a loggerhead. Eggs were later added to make it a battered flip, and eventually cream, in the most popular versions in the Massachusetts colony."
The milk punch makes a reappearance, this time in the world of published cocktail recipes. Jerry Thomas's official version calls for fine white sugar, one wine glass of brandy, a half glass of Santa Cruz rum, milk, and a small lump of ice, shaken and strained into a large glass, garnished with grated fresh nutmeg on top. A hot version is proposed directly beneath, omitting the ice cube and swapping out cold milk for hot. Several variations follow.
Hawn takes us to the next phase of the cocktail's early stages, which made way for concoctions still found on bar menus across the world today. "Grog came next, which was originally just rum diluted with water until they started calling for lime juice and sugar, making it a precursor to the Daiquiri." According to Hawn, grog was rationed by law to British Royal Navy sailors twice a day, and was hailed as a remedy for scurvy.
The sherry cobbler is thought to have been around the 1820s, with its first written mention in 1838 in a Canadian woman's diary entry about her travels in America. The simple drink is composed of sherry, sugar, and citrus, which is shaken and served over crushed ice. The cobbler is also credited with the origin of the use of straws in cocktails.
The British soldiers are at it again, this time one of the most famous gin cocktails of all time by mi gin with their daily ration of quinine tonic, which was used to prevent malaria. The gin and tonic directly spurs a significant spike in demand for quinine, boosting the market for years and years to come.
English restaurateur James Pimm (a gin-based liqueur with a proprietary blend of herbs and spices) upon the realization that his patrons "stayed longer when they sipped, rather than slugged, their gin." This was served in small tankards on ice and marketed as a health tonic.
New Orleans apothecary owner develops a "secret family recipe" for a gentian-based cocktail flavoring, or aromatic bitters. The Haitian-American was known to regularly serve a brandy toddy or two to his friends, in which he used these bitters as a signature ingredient. Peychaud's Bitters are still used today in bars across the world.
The of a mint julep appears in Captain Frederick Marryat's Second Series of a Diary in America, in which he describes the process and properties of a "real mint julep" as such: "Put into a tumbler about a dozen sprigs of the tender shoots of mint, upon them a spoonful of white sugar, and equal proportions of peach and common brandy, so as to fill it up one-third, or perhaps a little less. Then take rasped or pounded ice, and fill up the tumbler. Epicures rub the lips of the tumbler with [sic] a piece of fresh pineapple, and the tumbler is very often incrusted outside with stalactites of ice. As the ice melts, you drink."
This recipe eventually thanks to the South (and undoubtedly American derby tradition) into a combination of bourbon, mint leaves, sugar or simple syrup, and Angostura Bitters, served in a tin julep cup.
, the world's first crème de cassis, is born in Dijon, France. Over the next ten years, the distinctive black currant liqueur found its way into white wine and Champagne glasses throughout the country and ultimately the world, becoming known as the Kir and Kir Royal, respectively.
The name is derived from the mayor of Dijon during this period, who was known to enjoy a glass of white wine with Lejay from time to time.
Bartender Joseph Santini the Brandy Crusta at popular New Orleans Joint Jewel of the South. His relatively complex drink calls for cognac, Grand Marnier, maraschino, sugar or simple syrup, fresh lemon juice, and Angostura bitters. See also Sidecar, its simplified cousin (1948).
The Sazerac amongst New Orleans imbibers, calling for Sazerac-de-Forge et Fils French brandy and Peychaud's Bitters. An absinthe rinse is later added, and American rye whiskey is subbed in place of the cognac. Following a ban placed on absinthe in 1912, Herbsaint quickly took its place as the anise element in the drink — in present day, however, the Sazerac is largely made according to its true roots following absinthe's valiant return to the market.
The Sazerac was named as the of New Orleans in 2008.
Meet the Champagne cocktail, whose appears in 1855 in a journal by the name of Panama in 1855. An Account of the Panama Rail-Road, of the Cities of Panama and Aspinwall with Sketches of Life and Characters on the Isthmus by Robert Tomes.
In it, Tomes finds himself quite thirsty, but as the water in the area is insufferable, he turns to his friend and asks what he might drink. His friend responds, "A Champagne cock-tail—the most delicious thing in the world—let me make you one."
Though we do not know whether his friend actually invented the Champagne cocktail, its first appearance in publication is fascinating nonetheless. Tomes recounts the making of the cocktail in his entry, citing the use of Champagne, bitters, ice, and sugar.
We know that the term "spritz" from the time of Venice's Austro-Hungarian occupation, during which the German soldiers would request a "spritzen" of water be added to the local wines in order to make them more palatable. The spritz as we know it today took its form in 1919 when the Barbieri brothers concocted Aperol, a bitter liquor made from bitter orange, rhubarb, and gentian (among other things) in their hometown of Padova. Bartenders began serving a 3-2-1 mixture of dry Prosecco, Aperol, and soda, respectively.
The Gosling family unveils their dark rum, known today as Black Seal, and around the same time, it is said that the British Royal Navy begins brewing beer made with ginger.
, and the inevitable pair becomes the most popular libation in Bermuda. Its name, Dark 'n' Stormy, is said to have been coined by a sailor who said that it was the "colour of a cloud only a fool or a dead man would sail under."
A hop across the pond brings us to 1860s London, more specifically Brooks's Club on St. James Street, where a dark, somber cocktail is as Prince Albert had just passed away from Typhoid Fever. Queen Victoria begins a lifetime of wearing black, and the rest of the country joins her in a demonstration of respect for her late husband, albeit in a different fashion. The Black Velvet is still found in bars across the world, made by slowly pouring Guinness in a half-filled flute of champagne.
The Americano, a crimson combination of Campari, vermouth, and soda, is at Gaspare Campari's Milan bar. It is initially called the "Milano-Torino" but later dubbed the Americano as a tribute to the bar's many American patrons. This drink would later serve as the basis for the Negroni.
The earliest versions of the Corpse Reviver on bar menus across Paris and beyond as a cure for hangovers, and after gaining some traction, the name makes an appearance in magazines and books well into the late 1860s and early 1870s.
The first recipe (, 1871) is simplified, but Harry Craddock's 1930 recipes are now among the most popular, namely the Corpse Reviver #2. This calls for gin, Cocchi Americano or Lillet Blanc, Cointreau, lemon juice, and absinthe, shaken and strained into a chilled cocktail glass and garnished with orange zest.
We know for a fact that the Tom Collins existed at leastgiven its first dedication in the Bartenders Guide by cocktail pioneer Jerry Thomas.
In terms of origin of the actual recipe, that a man by the name of John Collins began serving a punch at London's Limmer Hotel around the 1820s or '30s called the Tom Collins as it was made with Old Tom gin. Also in London at the same time, there was an American bartender, Stephen Price, who according to Wondrich is the actual inventor of the drink, but Collins happened to be a much more charming fellow, so the credit is often given to him. The cocktail crossed the Atlantic around 1864 in more or less its current form.
Leo Robitschek, Bar Director of New York's NoMad Hotel weighs in: "One of my favorite cocktails is the Manhattan. It's one of the oldest, simplest and most delicious classic cocktails — and it was created right in our backyard at the former Manhattan Club on 26th Street and Madison Avenue.
We know that the cocktail was created in the 1870s, but we aren't sure who actually created it. The legend that I am the fondest of involves Jennie Jerome, a New York socialite, who was throwing a party to celebrate Samuel Tilden's gubernatorial election. The bartender at the time created the cocktail for the event and named it after the club.
Unfortunately, we know that this story can't be true because Jenny Jerome, more commonly known as Jennie Churchill, was giving birth to Sir Winston Churchill in the UK during this time."
Back to New Orleans for the of the absinthe frappé. Cayetano Ferrer, head bartender at the Aleix Coffee House (known today as Old Absinthe House), concocts a richly effervescent drink composed of absinthe, simple syrup, anisette, and soda, which becomes popular throughout its native city and beyond until 1912's devastating ban on absinthe, or "la fée verte" (the green fairy).
London magazine Fun "Planter's Punch! A West Indian Recipe" — the earliest known mention as far as we know. The cocktail, generally made with lime, sugar, old Jamaica rum, and ice water, remains popular until the start of World War II.
Bartender Harry Johnson declares the as its own distinct cocktail separate from the julep, with seasonal fruit as the differentiating factor. Its original makeup is similar to what we follow today, featuring a spirit (commonly rum or whiskey), an herb (usually mint), sugar, the occasional splash of water, and fruit.
The Gin Fizz's very first mention in the Boston Globe in July of 1882, detailing a recipe that called for gin, lemon, sugar dissolved in a bit of water, and soda.
Now the official cocktail of Washington D.C., it's only fitting that the Rickey should have such centralized roots. Colonel Joseph Rickey is said to have in 1883 at his own D.C. bar, Shoomaker's, combining bourbon and lime on ice, topped with soda. The area recognizes July as Rickey Month each year.
A man by the name of Henry C. Ramos of improving the standard fizz by adding a ton of new ingredients and a bit of extra manual labor into the mix. What was once a simple tipple now incorporates gin, heavy cream, fresh lemon and lime juice, simple syrup, egg white, and orange blossom water in good old Henry's variation, and some say he insisted that it be shaken for a full twelve minutes for maximum enjoyment. Sounds like a lot of work, but definitely worth it —that is, if you can find a bartender who not only has all of the elements behind the bar but also has a bit of down time on his or her hands.
The Bamboo, a classic, is borne of a with sherry in Japan thanks to German hotel manager Louis Eppinger. Eppinger arrived in Yokohama in 1889 after establishing a bartending career in San Francisco, and within two years of landing a job at the Grand Hotel, he gained popularity amongst international dignitaries with his concoction of dry sherry, French vermouth, and orange bitters. Eppinger is regarded today as one of Japan's founding fathers of the cocktail scene.
New York operetta "Rob Roy" a ruby-hued cocktail of the same name, made up of Scotch, dry vermouth (and sometimes sweet), and bitters.