Sep 28, 2018

What's in a Name, Cocktail

There are almost as many stories about the origination of the word cocktail relating to drinks as there are types of cocktail. Most concede that the word is of US origin.

A computerized newspaper database showed up an 1803 article from New Hampshire satirizing the fast young men of its day by printing what was purportedly an extract from one of their diaries - "Drank a glass of cocktail—excellent for the head...Call'd at the Doct's, found Burnham—he looked very wise—drank another glass of cocktail."

On May 13, 1806, the Balance and Colombian Repository of Hudson, New York, answered a reader’s query as to the nature of a cocktail: "Cock-tail is a stimulating liquor, composed of spirits of any kind, sugar, water, and bitters—it is vulgarly called bittered sling, and is supposed to be an excellent electioneering potion, in as much as it renders the heart stout and bold, at the same time that it fuddles the head. It is said, also to be of great use to a democratic candidate: because a person, having swallowed a glass of it, is ready to swallow anything else."

In one of James Fenimore Cooper's more obscure novels the salty Elizabeth “Betty” Flanagan keeps a rough tavern, and Cooper characterizes her as “the inventor of that beverage which is so well known at the present hour 1821, to all the patriots who make a winter's march between New York City and Albany, and which is distinguished by the name of ‘cock-tail."

Another theory as to the origin, is ginger was used in the horse trade to make a horse stick its tail up. If you had an old horse you were trying to sell, you would put some ginger up its butt, and it would cock its tail up and be frisky. That was known as “cock-tail.”

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