The History of the Cocktail

ThinkstockPhotos-514150170.jpgCocktails enjoy a rather long and varied history and can be as simple as a Martini and as complex as a Mai Tai. The origin of the cocktail can be traced back to the 1860s when the first bartending book was published and contained recipes for mixed drinks very similar to what we would know today as an Old Fashioned. Indeed the term “old fashioned” was coined in the early 1900s to differentiate the original mixed drinks from the newer, more complex drinks being offered at that time.

Cocktails really blossomed in popularity in the 1920s as many new drinks were invented, mostly to hide the insipid flavor of cheap alcohol offered in speakeasys. By the late 1930s and into the 1940s, we saw a rise in the popularity of the tiki bar, as Americans we able to take vacations in such tropical locations as Hawaii, Cuba and Florida. The year 1950 marked another milestone–the introduction of the Moscow Mule, a drink that has seen an explosion in popularity recently. This introduction of vodka into American liquor cabinets precipitated the decline in popularity of gin and indeed, many drink formerly made with gin were increasingly made with vodka–like the Vodka Martini which was originally called a Kangaroo. By the ’90s cocktails had been edged out by “shooters,” usually sweet concoctions of various liquors meant to be gulped fast and not sipped and enjoyed.

ThinkstockPhotos-506346338.jpgCocktails were not to be denied their place in the sun however. There has been an increasing interest in what has sometimes been dubbed “paleomixology” where the adherents search far and wide to find old bartending books and learn how drinks were made originally. I have two such books myself: a 1910 Jack’s Manual of Bartending and the much sought after 1932 Savoy Hotel Bar Manual. It’s fascinating to learn the proper use of bitters in mixed drinks in order to add another level of flavor or to discover the rich taste of drinks when using gin instead of vodka. Of course, ABC has all the ingredients you will need to make a masterful Martini or to soar the skies with an amazing Aviation cocktail. My personal favorite has to be the Jersey Cocktail, so named because of the use of New Jersey Applejack in the recipe.

1 jigger Laird’s Applejack
1 jigger Red Vermouth
1 dash Angostura Bitters

Combine in glass with ice and stir well.  Strain into cocktail glass with a cherry garnish.

Louis Tamasi, Mixology Enthusiast – Roosevelt Rd., Jacksonville

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