Some Cocktail History
A cocktail is a mixed drink that usually consists of one or more types of liquor, a mixer or several of them and flavorings like liqueur, sauce, fruit, honey, cream, milk, spices, etc. Mixers are usually carbonated drinks like tonic water, soda water or seltzer, but sometimes non-carbonated beverages like fruit juices are also used as mixers.
During Prohibition in the United States (1919 - 1933) cocktails were widely used to mask poor quality of home-distilled alcohol (such as "bathtub gin"). Many famous and classic recipes were introduced during that time.
It is officially recognized that the first printed use of the word "cocktail" was in the "Balance and Columbian Repository" (May 13, 1806 edition) published in Hudson, New York. The paper provided the following explanation to what a cocktail was:
"Cocktail is a stimulating liquor composed of spirits of any kind, sugar, water, and bitters--it is vulgarly called a bittered sling and is supposed to be an excellent electioneering potion, inasmuch as it renders the heart stout and bold, at the same time that it fuddles the head. It is said, also to be of great use to a Democratic candidate: because a person, having swallowed a glass of it, is ready to swallow anything else."
However, in October 2005 Dr. David Wondrich determined that the word cocktail was firstly printed in "The Farmer's Cabinet", April 28, 1803, p : "11. Drank a glass of cocktail - excellent for the head... Call'd at the Doct's. found Burnham - he looked very wise - drank another glass of cocktail."
In 1862 Professor Jerry Thomas published a bartenders' guide named "How to Mix Drinks; or, The Bon Vivant's Companion" where several first cocktail recipes were published in addition to Slings, Punches, Toddies, Flips, Sours, Cobblers, Shrubs and other mixed drinks. Bitters were the key ingredient in cocktails that distinguished them from other beverages; however, currently bitters are rarely called for in modern cocktail recipes.
There are several versions on why the drink is called what it is. The first one states that it was customary to put a feather from a cock's tail in the drink to decorate it and/or to show that it contained (or did NOT contain, like others say) alcohol. Another version says that the drink was originally consumed in the morning as a hangover cure and was named in honor of rooster or cock - a symbol of the morning sun. The name could also be borrowed from a layered drink that looked like a cock's tail (had many layers, or "feathers", of different colors).