The next time you’re enjoying the evening with your favorite cocktail drink in hand, you might want to give some thought as to the history behind this wonderful concoction. No, this doesn’t mean that you have to slip into deep pondering mode, but the history of cocktails can make for some interesting small talk, and it’s nice to know where it all began.

The creation of cocktail drinks can be traced back to the nineteenth century. This means the drink is quite young when compared to such staples as beer for example. At first a cocktail was one or more liquors with added flavoring to mask the harsh and unrefined taste of the liquor. It only grew from there.

The most commonly used mixers were fruit juices, various sauces, honey, milk, cream, and spices. Selling alcohol was banned in America during Prohibition from 1919-1933. That didn’t stop the Americans from opening establishments for selling and consuming these bootlegged drinks.

For a time cocktail parties were quite rare, but regained their popularity after the 1970’s. Now although wine and beer are still immensely popular, sales of mixed drinks also known as cocktails have sky rocketed in recent years.

So where did the Name come from?

There is some controversy as to the true origins of the term “cocktail.” Here are some popular beliefs:

Orange Cocktail
  • A bar in New York ran out of drink stirrers and resorted to using a cock’s tail feathers to mix the drinks.
  • It grew into a custom to put a feather from a cock’s tail in an alcoholic beverage as a sign that the drink contained booze
  • Spirits were kept in casks in Colonial times. When the liquid in the casks lowered it meant that it was losing flavor and potency. The tavern keeper used an additional cask from which the tailings from the low casks could be combined and sold for a reduced price. Customers referred to the drinks as the cock tailings or tailing from the stop cock of the cask.
  • Originally cocktails were a morning beverage. Cocktail was a metaphor for the rooster heralding the morning light
  • The term cocktail is believed to come from the word coquetier. A coquetier is a French egg-cup often used for serving a beverage in the early 19th century usually in New Orleans
  • Cocktails were thought to be named after a mixed breed horse also known as a cock-tail. The drink was mixed just like the breed of horse, thus inheriting its name.

As you can see, there is no shortage of tales as to how this term originated. While no one can say for certain which of the stories is true, it’s certainly an intriguing list of stories.Perhaps the next time you’re enjoying a night on the town, you’ll have a few new tales of your own to tell.