Cocktail Chronicles: A Journey Through the History of Mixed Drinks

image shows different types of cocktails

A Brief History of Cocktails

Cocktails have a long and fascinating history! They were initially inspired by British punches, which contained spirits, fruit juices, and spices in big bowls. The term “cocktail” was first seen on March 17, 1798, as referenced from a newspaper . The first definition of a cocktail as an alcoholic beverage appeared three years later in The Balance and Columbian Repository (Hudson, New York) May 13, 1806 . Traditionally, cocktail ingredients included spirits, sugar, water and bitters.

The Pioneers of Mixology: Jerry Thomas, Harry Johnson, and Ada Coleman

One of the pioneers of bartending as a serious profession was Jerry Thomas. He established the image of the bartender as a creative professional and his 1862 guide to cocktail making, “The Bon Vivant’s Companion,” was the first cocktail book ever published.

Another influential bartender was Harry Johnson. He owned and operated saloons across the US in the late 19th century and the early 20th century. He is best known for his book “Harry Johnson’s New and Improved Bartenders’ Manual: Or, How to Mix Drinks of the Present Style.” This influential book contained many original cocktail recipes and explained how to run a bar and the daily ins and outs of running a drinking establishment.

The-Bon-Vivant-s-Companion-or-How-to-Mix-Drinks-by-Jerry-Thomas first printed in 1929
Harry Johnson's Bartender Manual first printed in 1882

Have you heard of Ada Coleman? She was a total boss! Not only was she head bartender at the swanky Savoy Hotel in London for 23 years (from 1903 to 1926), but she was also one of only two women to ever hold that position. While at the Savoy, she whipped up all sorts of delicious cocktails, including the famous Hanky Panky. And get this – she even trained Harry Craddock, who went on to become one of the most famous bartenders of the 1920s and 1930s. He’s known for his time at the Savoy and for his book, The Savoy Cocktail Book. He was also the first Head Barman at the Dorchester Hotel and co-founder of the United Kingdom Bartenders’ Guild. Talk about a dynamic duo!

The Golden Age of Cocktails: Prohibition and Beyond

Cocktails continued to evolve and gain popularity throughout the 1900s. In 1917 the term “cocktail party” was coined by Mrs. Julius S. Walsh Jr. of St. Louis, Missouri . With wine and beer being less available during the Prohibition in the United States (1920–1933), liquor-based cocktails became more popular due to accessibility . After Prohibition ended, many talented bartenders had already found new homes abroad. In a sense, World Wars (and increased tourism) were a slight saving grace for cocktail culture.

Modern Mixology: The Rise of Cocktail Culture

The early to mid-2000s saw the rise of cocktail culture through the style of mixology which mixes traditional cocktails and other novel ingredients . In the modern world and the Information Age, cocktail recipes are widely shared online on websites. Cocktails and restaurants that serve them are frequently covered and reviewed in tourism magazines and guides .

As we’ve seen, the history of cocktails is a rich and fascinating one. From their origins in British punches to the creative innovations of bartenders like Jerry Thomas, Harry Johnson, and Ada Coleman, cocktails have evolved and changed with the times. Today, cocktail culture is thriving, with mixologists around the world pushing the boundaries and creating new and exciting drinks.

Cheers to the Classics: Must-Try Cocktails for Every Occasion

Martini – made with gin and vermouth, and garnished with an olive or a lemon twist 2.

Margarita – made with tequila, orange liqueur, and lime juice.

Old Fashioned – made with whiskey, sugar, water and bitters.

Mojito – made with white rum, sugar, lime juice, soda water and mint.

Manhattan – made with whiskey, sweet vermouth and bitters.

NOTE: Please remember to always drink responsibly. Know your limits and never drink and drive. Alcohol should only be consumed by individuals who are of legal drinking age. If you are pregnant or taking medication, it is important to consult with your doctor before consuming alcohol. Enjoy responsibly!

Mix it Up: Non-Alcoholic Cocktails for Everyone to Enjoy

Virgin Mojito: Muddle fresh mint leaves, lime juice, and simple syrup in a glass. Fill the glass with ice and top with club soda. Garnish with a sprig of mint and a lime wedge.

Shirley Temple: Fill a glass with ice and pour in ginger ale and a splash of grenadine. Stir gently and garnish with a maraschino cherry.

Virgin Piña Colada: Blend pineapple juice, coconut cream, and ice until smooth. Pour into a glass and garnish with a pineapple wedge and a cherry.

Virgin Margarita: Rim a glass with salt. In a shaker, combine lime juice, orange juice, and simple syrup with ice. Shake well and strain into the glass. Garnish with a lime wedge.

These drinks are delicious and refreshing without the alcohol. Enjoy!

So next time you’re sipping on a martini or a mojito, take a moment to appreciate the long and storied history behind that delicious drink. Cheers to the future of cocktails!

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