There are words… then there are words with a story… and finally there are words with a lot of stories trailing them. Cocktail is one word that has no limit to the stories that can be connected to it. Who wouldn’t want to be a part the history of a word that most of humanity loves.
A cock’s tail is obviously in the centre of a lot of these tales. It is believed that a rooster’s tail was used frequently to garnish a Colonial drink. There is one reference that points out to the leftovers in casks of ale being mixed and sold at a lower price. This came to be called cock-tailing and sold cheap as it was said to be a ‘beverage of questionable integrity’.
This word could easily have been derived from coquetal, which in French is an egg-cup. It is said that one ‘Antoine Amedie Peychaud of New Orleans mixed his Peychaud bitters into a stomach remedy served in a coquetel. Not all of Peychaud’s customers could pronounce the word and it became known as cocktail.’ (Reference from an article on the internet)
The most interesting story though, is one that ‘Bartender’ published in 1936. It wrote of English sailors reporting that their drinks in Mexico were stirred with a Cola de Gallo or a cock’s tail which was actually a long root and just happened to look like the bird’s tail. And the moment I read this story, I said to myself, ‘Now here is one story that beats all the other references and derivations hollow!’
An article in Telegraph says that ‘America stakes its claim to the cocktail’s surge in popularity in part through the work of Jerry Thomas, a Connecticut native who in 1862 wrote the first book to contain a section of cocktail recipes.’ The article goes on to point out that this American ‘actually worked in London prior to penning this pioneering tome.’
The battle for ‘cocktails’ is a long one and I wouldn’t be surprised if someone else came up with another story yet again… but most people do agree that a cocktail is ‘a stimulating liquor, composed of spirits of any kind, sugar, water and bitters’ and so whatever directions the dictionaries may opt to go in, this mixture remains ready to get re-invented every day.
Yes, the one-word definition for a cocktail that I have is: Reinvention. Well, some may choose ‘restructured’ or ‘redone’ or simply ‘discovered’. But then a cocktail isn’t just a random coming together of diverse ingredients of which one happens to be an alcohol… it is done with a lot of deliberation and the final taste emerges after a lot of serious experimentation.
A cursory search on the net will also reveal that Black Dog whiskies have been having a rather successful run with being the main protagonist of a lot of interesting cocktails. So we have Long Gone, Black watch, Whisky Sangaree, Black Shrub, Algoquin, and Blinder in the list of those where Black Dog Scotch Whisky finds itself being poured. Then there are other fanciful names like Banana cow, Lady Scarlett, Grasshopper, fallen Angel, and Miami Vice that might just be waiting for someone to add 40 to 60 ml of Black Dog to make it do a Tango on the taste buds!
Let me now give you an example of Tartan Breeze, a cocktail recipe that I found on the Live In Style webpage: It asked me to mix 1 ½ part of Black Dog Centenary Scotch Whisky, ½ part apricot brandy, 1 part orange juice, and a dash of Angostura bitters. Add ice cubes and shake the mixture. The recipe finally asks you to to strain into a large cocktail glass and serve with ice.
Well, most of cocktailing has a bit of intuitive love for creating a mix that enhances taste and flavours… and it isn’t difficult. Remember, there is a mixologist slumbering inside each of us!
Disclaimer: The content of this post is meant only for people above the age of 25.
13 May 2014