This may seem like a basic question, pointless even. But before you roll your eyes and rattle of a list of your favourite cocktails – from the classic Cuba Libre to the fruity goodness of a freshly mixed Sex On The Beach – hold on a second and ask yourself: Who came up with this? When was this made a thing? And, most mysterious of all, why on earth is it called a cocktail?
We can’t promised to answer all your questions, but we can definitely shed light on some properly fascinating facts – so strap yourself in, pour a little drink and get ready to learn something new.
Cocktails have been around since the early 1800s – yes, that long – when the term was mentioned for the very first time in an issue of The Farmer’s Cabinet of all things, which described it as a most effective hangover cure, best consumed while comfortably positioned on a sun lounger. So really, not much has changed since then…or has it?
Before there were Cocktail Bars, our drink-happy friends in Great Britain established fun little social hotspots known as ‘Punch Houses’. At the Punch House, people would share enormous bowls of alcohol blended with fruit and spices, largely inspired by the new flavours the British ‘discovered’ during their colonisation of India. These concoctions were a far cry from bland, room-temperature lagers and consequently became a massive hit immediately.
By this time, Rum had already made its way to Europe from the Caribbean and quickly became the drink of choice – provided you had the necessary cash. Rum-based cocktails were considered a drink for the upper-upper-upper class, while everyone else was left to flounder in puddles of gin. How’s that for good old days?
Since the communal punch bowls of the English public houses, cocktails have evolved into nothing short of an artform. Some of them – like The Manhattan, the Mojito and The Old Fashioned – have been around for absolute donkeys years and they are still delicious.
However, despite the fact that we have been enjoying cocktails for two hundred years now – they have survived prohibition and that awful movie with Tom Cruise in it – no one is exactly sure how the ‘cocktail’ got its name.
Theories are many, varied and, occasionally, far-fetched. It could be that everyone’s favourite indulgence is named after ‘the cocktail horse’, which is essentially a non-thoroughbred (read: mixed) variety. Or, maybe, it takes its name from the French word for egg-cup – coquetier -which was the favoured drinking implement of one Antoine Amédée Peychaud, the apothecary who created Peychaud bitters. Then again, perhaps the term comes from the thrifty bar owners habit to use the barrel dregs – sometimes referred to as cocktailings – to make mixed beverages…the mind boggles.
So here we are. A little smarter. A little more confused. A little more in need of a refreshing delicious cocktail. If all this learning has made you thirsty, check out our fabulous selection of bar essentials and get to it. And remember: Three ingredients. Minimum.