Roh-roh–another Friday the 13th is upon us. But this one’s lucky because it’s also World Cocktail Day, when the spirits-lovers the world over celebrate their favorite mixed drinks.
This day marks the anniversary of the first time the word “cocktail” was seen in print, though a rivalry of sorts has developed over who published it first. One school says that historic mention appeared on May 13, 1806, in a publication called The Balance and Columbian Repository. That entry read, “Cocktail is a stimulating liquor, composed of spirits of any kind, sugar, water, and bitters.”
But, students of hooch should know, the venerable Oxford Dictionary also claims to have been the first to mention cocktails on that same day, with this definition: “An alcoholic drink consisting of a spirit or several spirits mixed with other ingredients, such as fruit juice, lemonade, or cream.”
They might both be wrong. BigSexyReds found two earlier references on another blog (Diffordsguide.com), one in London’s Morning Post and Gazetteer (1798) and another in a US agricultural manual, The Farmer’s Cabinet, in 1803.
The origin of the word itself might have evolved from a description of mixed-breed horses who, unlike thoroughbreds, had tails resembling “cock’s tails.” Since a cocktail is another kind of “mix,” the name stuck. And, spirits-geeks, May 13 also is the day Harry’s Bar in Venice, birthplace of the Bellini cocktail, first opened in 1931.
What isn’t disputed: cocktail-concocting has launched thousands of careers. Mixology is a more creative endeavor all the time, and some experts credit the recent surge in popularity (and quality) of premium spirits. Bartenders have had to up their game, and we all benefit from their creativity.
My favorite cocktail is the Manhattan. I still get a headache when I remember my first: I was a teenager, my dad had just discovered the fun of mixing drinks, and long story short, I slept through Christmas.
I’ve tempered my cocktail habit since then, but I still love the way bourbon, my favorite spirit, glides over my tongue when it’s blended with the other ingredients. There’s no way to ruin a Manhattan, so go ahead and experiment. Here’s a basic recipe:
Ingredients: 2 oz. bourbon or rye, 1 oz. sweet vermouth, 2 dashes bitters, brandied cherry garnish.
Combine all ingredients, add ice and stir. Strain into a chilled cocktail or coupe glass and garnish with brandied cherries.
Wine Lingo of the Day: Vermouth = created in the Piedmont wine region of northern Italy in the 1700s, vermouth is a red or white fortified wine, infused with about 100 aromatic spices, barks, herbs and flavorings, including ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, rhubarb and chamomile. You can drink vermouth alone or mix it into a cocktail. Red vermouth usually is sweet, while white can be dry or off-dry.
Enjoy your cocktails! And if you want to keep reading about wine and spirits, just click the “Follow” tab in the lower right-hand corner of your screen and future BigSexyReds.com posts will come to you by email.
[Photo courtesy of Holly, Flickr.com.]