Whether you make them yourself or order them at a bar, cocktails have become a drinking staple. However, if you ask somewhere where their drink comes from, they probably can’t answer. In fact, cocktail history isn’t something that many drinkers know. However, this little bit of knowledge can help you appreciate your next drink just a bit more…
Cocktail History: A Brief Overview
The beginnings of cocktail history start in late 18th century Britain. During this time, people commonly drank punches made up of liquor, fruit juice, spices, and other flavors. Eventually, in 1806, the term “cocktail” was created in Hudson, New York. The book which first mentioned them defined it as “a stimulating liquor composed of any kind of sugar, water and bitters”.
This began the pursuit of refining the art of making mixed drinks, or as we know it, bartending. Bartenders began to sell recipe books to teach others how to make these drinks. Plus, as ice became more easily available, cocktails continued to explode in popularity.
Of course, the lowest point in cocktail history is Prohibition. With the 18th Amendment, alcohol sales became illegal in the U.S. As a result, bartenders faced difficult decisions. Some found other jobs, while others went to countries where alcohol was still legal. Some even worked in illegal, mob-ran bars called speakeasies.
However, even when Prohibition was repealed, many bartenders abroad had already found new homes. In fact, it would be the World Wars which helped rescue cocktails. As servicemen experienced the cocktail culture of different places (such as “Tiki culture” in the Pacific), they were eager to bring these styles back to their homes.
The modern era
Cocktails saw a bit of an upswing after World War II. However, they quickly fell behind once more as recreational drugs became big in the 1960’s and 1970’s. In fact, it wouldn’t be until the 1990’s that cocktails became popular as we know them. At the Rainbow Room in New York, bartenders began to use historical values and standards in their drinks to make cocktails into how we know them today.
Cocktail history has had it’s share of ups and downs. However, it appears that these drinks are finally here to stay. As people continue to get more creative with their mixes, it’ll be interesting to see what new drinks come about in the near future.