Culinary Anthropologist

The cocktail

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Sm1794s0003.JPGWhy a cocktail is called a cocktail is a question that has a number of different answers, which are each ridiculous, yet strangely plausible in that it would be nice to believe one of them…

Either, a barmaid in New York called Betsy, who thought outside the traditional garnish box, started serving mixed alcoholic drinks adorned with cock’s tail stirrers taken from her feathery bar d├ęcor.  Or, savvy tavern keepers would…


…combine the inferior dregs of their various barrels of rum, brandy, whisky, gin etc in a spare barrel and sell them as ‘cock tailings’ – ie the tail ends below the stop-cocks – for a reduced price.
 
Or perhaps, the ‘cocktail’ is an appropriately multi-coloured metonym for the rooster, whose call was associated with a stiff morning drink of mixed substances by those who did not own yard arms to restrict their drinking habits. 

Or maybe, the term is derived from ‘coquetier’, a French egg-cup which was used to serve mixed drinks in New Orleans in the early 19th century. 

Or, it could be that it was named after a mixed breed of the horse – the ‘cock-tail’ – as it too was a mixture.

In any case, the first written record we have of the cocktail is from 1803:  “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.”

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