Look Back at the History of Cocktails

When you host a party for your family and friends, there is a good chance that your favorite cocktails will be on the drink menu. From the classic Martini to the iconic Manhattan, there are endless varieties of cocktails that you and your guests can enjoy. You may be surprised to learn, however, that the cocktails that we know and love today can be traced back to the 1800s. Let’s take a quick look back at the history of cocktails, and how they evolved over the centuries.

Early 1800s: Origins of the Cocktail

The term “cocktail” can be traced back to the British horse trading industry of the 1800s. In order to display that a horse had mixed breeding, the owner would cut its tail short, resulting in a “cocktail.” These horses were less desirable than steeds with proper pedigrees, so they were fed mixtures of gin, ginger, and oats before auction so that they seemed livelier and more desirable.

Mid 1800s: Evolution of the Cocktail

By the mid 1800s, the cocktail had shed its agricultural origins. By 1862, a man named Jerry Thomas had written a book that catalogued the various libations and recipes that were being served by renowned chefs around the world. Early cocktails, such as Punch Jelly, made an appearance in Thomas’ book.

Early 1900s: Dawn of the American Bar

Cocktails surged in popularity in 1900s America, when American bartenders started serving up drinks that combined gin, vermouth, and other popular spirits. Some of these early cocktails also included bitters, which added a botanical element to the drinks. By the 1920s, the 18th amendment caused a period of prohibition, which drove American bartenders underground.

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