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Cocktail - History, Etymology

drink alcohol cocktails word

In 2005, Dr, David Wondrich stated that the earliest use of the word in print of the word “cocktail” was from “The Farmer’s Cabinet.” Published in 1803, “The Farmer’s Cabinet” made mention of the cocktail as being a drink of choise. The second earliest use of the word “cocktail” in print was from the 1806 edition of “The Balance and Columbian Repository.” Many believe that the term “cockail” was first coined in the village of Elmsford in New York. It is said that a local bar ran out of stirrers and began to use cock’s tail feathers to stir drinks. The first printing of a bartender’s guide that included recipes for cocktails was printed in 1862 by Prof. Jerry Thomas. The book included several recipes for cocktails and noted that the use of bitters to make cocktails was the thing that differentiated cocktails from other drinks. Bitters are not generally used in modern cocktail-making. Cocktails were set aflame when they contained a trace amount of high-proof alcohol which was set aflame by the bartender prior to its being served. In the years of Prohibition in the United States which lasted from 1919-1933, cocktails were prepared in speakeasies with far less care because the quality of good alcohol available was limited. This is because alcohol was illegal in the United States during prohibition.

Etymology

There are a number of ideas why the term “cocktail” was originally coined. Some include the following:

(1) Taverns in Colonial times kept their alcohol in casks, and as the liquid was poured out, the alcohol would lose flavor and potency, causing the tavern owner to combine the leftover alcohol from various containers into one cask. This combined cask was then sold at a discounted price. Patrons wanting to purchase these “cock tailings” or the leftovers from the stop cock of the cask, would then request these leftovers by the coined phrase.
(2) Cocktails were originally meant as a beverage to be served in the morning. The name was given as a metaphor for the rooster, or cocktail, announcing the morning light.
(3) Some believe that the custom of placing a feather from a cock’s tail in the drink both to decorate the drink, and note to teetotalers that a drink had alcohol in it.
(4) It is said that the term was taken from a French egg-cup, which was used while serving the drink in Louisiana in the early 1800s.
(5) The drink was named after a mixed-breed horse, known at the time as a “cocktail.” This was said to be because, like the drink, the horse was also mixed.
(6) The word was taken from the Latin word “decota” which means “distilled water,” and was then distorted.

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