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The History of Cocktails.

The history of the cocktail is filled with many interesting and amusing stories, as well as some conspicuous theories and colorful legends. It’s no wonder! The creation of alcoholic drinks and the process of brewing have been around for centuries, with links as far back as ancient times.

While there were documented uses of the word ‘cocktail’ in publications from 1798 and 1803, it was on 13 May 1806 that the first known documented definition of the term was published in the upscale New York newspaper The Balance, and Columbian Repository, by editor Harry Croswell. In response to a tongue-in-cheek political write up, Croswell responded to a confused reader defining cocktail as ‘a stimulating liquor composed of spirits of any kind, sugar, water and bitters.’

In reality we may never know the true origin of the term cocktail or the drink, however, this documented definition has been commemorated with May 13 being commonly known as World Cocktail Day. Some might argue it’s just an excuse for people to enjoy their favourite party drink! Still, why not? Here are 5 unique cocktails you can try mixing up to celebrate World Cocktail Day.

The use of ginger in conjunction with cocktails has had a similarly long and varied history. Publications from 1828 described the addition of ingredients like ginger to beer, gin or other drinks. Around the same time, the use of ginger in cocktails was growing in sporting and equine circles, with some linking it’s use in the horse trade to make a horse stick (cock) its tail up.

As ginger and pepper were historically common ingredients used to liven up alcoholic drinks, at some point the plain ginger or pepper component of drinkable ‘Cocktails’ began to change. It was widely replaced with bitters, as bartenders and in-keepers experimented with more creative combinations.

The first known guide to cocktail making was published in 1862 by well known American bartender Jerry Thomas. Thomas owned and operated saloons across New York city in the 1800’s and is often considered the father of American mixology. His published cocktail guide, ‘The Bartenders Guide: How To Mix Drinks’, can still be purchased in reprint today from Amazon.

As prohibition rolled around in 1919 across the US, the practice and popularity of cocktails took a hit. The alcohol trade moved underground to huge illegal operations run by organized crime gangs. During this time, the rise of ‘speakeasies’ and a new wave of alcohol consumption became very popular.

In many cases, the spirits produced during prohibition often tasted awful leading to bartenders to come up with creative ways to mix a number of other ingredients like creams and juices to disguise the poor taste of the alcohol (and hide if from police). Mixed drinks and cocktails soared in popularity and by the time the Prohibition ended in 1933, bartenders were free to continue to experiment with spirits and liquors in the same way they do today.

Whatever the truth is behind the humble cocktail’s origins, one thing is for certain. These days they are immensely popular and the tradition of mixing up your favorite liquor to create something new and exciting is a hot trend from coast to coast and around the world. Just as stirring up an old favorite, remains as strong as ever in the psyche of people out enjoying good times with good friends.

How good is your grasp of what cocktails Americans are drinking in 2019? According to a study by Nielson CGA, the nation’s favorite cocktails are as follows:

  1. Margarita
  2. Martini
  3. Old Fashioned
  4. Mimosa
  5. A Bundaberg Favorite- The Moscow Mule

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