History of the Cocktail

The term “Cocktail” was as far as we know first used in written reference to a drink in 1806, in an American magazine called The Balance, although others have dated it back to three years previous in 1803. It was described in 1808 as a stimulating liquor, composed of spirit of any kind, sugar, water and bitters ‘. Set recipes for cocktails were first printed in 1862. They grew in popularity during the early twentieth century despite the enforced prohibition of alcohol; new concoctions were forever been made in an attempt to disguise the use of moonshine, and they were a common drink found in the underground speakeasies. It is believed that the first official cocktail party, consisting of approximately fifty guests, was held in St Louis in the mansion of Mrs Julius S. Walsh Jr.

By the later half of the twentieth century the popularity of cocktails lessoned as the novelty wore off, however this was not to last long, and by the end of the century they were being widely advertised and promoted in literature and film to spread their popularity. A famous, unforgettable example will immediately spring to reader’s minds here; James Bond and his classic drink, a martini shaken not stirred. This cocktail incidentally was one of the first ever formulated, the origin of which remains unknown. Some believe that it derived its name from the town of Martinez in California, whilst others believe that it was named by the British in the late nineteenth century after a rifle, both of them sharing similar characteristics, i.e a very strong kick. The original recipe consisted of sweet red Vermouth, aromatic bitters and Old Tom Gin, all garnished with a cherry. A dry martini today however contains London Dry Gin, dry white Vermouth, with an olive combination. As the popularity of Martinis grew, naturally the cocktail shaker was developed, which have changed over the years. They were originally made from either glass or silver.

Another famous cocktail is naturally the Margarita; and there are several stories behind the origin of the drink. It is said in 1936 a guy called Danny Negrete invented the drink for an original wedding present for his brother’s new wife, Margarita, at their wedding. Another story holds it was in fact invented in 1948 by a Margarita Sames as a result of a party game which involved her mixing drinks for her guests to vote on.

Cocktails are always being invented, and the list is forever growing, and the names are interesting and thought provoking to say the least; the list including the Freddy Kruger, Tom Collins, Cosmopolitan, Afternoon Delight, Orgasm, and Sex on the Beach.


  1. Cocktail
  2. The surprising history of the cocktail – Telegraph

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