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Thread: Why cocktail?

  1. #1
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    Why cocktail?

    Does anyone here know the origin of the term cocktail? Chuck got me wondering while I was reading one of his posts. Thanks in advance. Tim
    "Too much of anything is bad, but too much of good whiskey is barely enough". Mark Twain

  2. #2
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    Re: Why cocktail?

    The original Sazerac Cocktail in 1830, or there-abouts, was made in the French Quarters of New Orleans. It was called a coquetier, to the English speaking ear it sounded like cocktail and gave this type of drink it's name.
    But some say this is a myth.
    ovh

  3. #3
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    Re: Why cocktail?

    It's probably one of those "We'll never know for sure" things, but the Wikipedia entry for 'cocktail' has some interesting thoughts on the subject. It mentions a printed reference to the term as early as 1803.

    Larry
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  4. #4
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    Re: Why cocktail?

    How about this
    2010 Bourbonian of the Year

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  5. #5
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    Post Re: Why cocktail?

    One of my college history professors claimed it was because the first cocktails were stirred with the tail of a cock. He had apparently done his research, so I had no reason to mistrust him.

    Tim
    Self-Styled Whisky Connoisseur

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    Re: Why cocktail?

    Quote Originally Posted by ratcheer View Post
    One of my college history professors claimed it was because the first cocktails were stirred with the tail of a cock. He had apparently done his research, so I had no reason to mistrust him.

    Tim
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    Joe
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  7. #7
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    Re: Why cocktail?

    Well Joe you could put them into a pillow. The sweet smell of whiskey as you fade off to sleep.
    "Too much of anything is bad, but too much of good whiskey is barely enough". Mark Twain

  8. #8
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    Re: Why cocktail?

    Of everything I have read in 30 years on this, the thesis in the article Timothy cited makes most sense to me.

    I first read the theory in a circa-1970 book by John Martin, an English writer who authored Encyclopedia of Drinks and Drinking (I bought it under the Coles imprint). Martin recited many of the other theories also mentioned by Anatoly Liberman but I felt the one about the shortened tails of horses makes the most sense.

    As Martin and Liberman explained (and if I read the latter right the horse tail theory was first identified by Swedish and Belgian writers writing earlier), a horse which was not purebred might have its tail shortened or docked to show that its bloodline was mixed. Martin gives it a spin which brings the plausibility closer to home for me: he writes that at the racecourse (race track in America), docking the tails of horses was a way for those attending races to know which were purebred. Now of course, then and now, alcoholic drink was a staple at the ponies. And mixtures of drinks (earlier called slings and other names) would have been commonly served there. So the betters at American tracks might have dubbed the mixed drinks cocktails, humorously borrowing a word also used daily at these events.

    Of all the theories I have read, this makes the most sense to me.

    If it is true the word "cocquetel" was used in Bordeaux to mean a drink of some kind, and even if so used for centuries, to me at most this suggests the French borrowed an English word to mean something similar, just as "goudale" in France, which is a colloquial term to mean beer or a swallow (draught) of some drink, derives from the English "good ale". In other words, the term cocktail might have been used on English racecourses before the British came to America despite that there is no apparent English documentary evidence for the term before the first American citations. And why would there be, since this was a colloquial expression which initially and for some time would not have appeared in polite society or at least in print?

    Liberman has suggested that the term when used to describe cocktailed horses was meant to suggest resemblance to a rooster's tail. This is possible, but I think also the term cocked tail might also simply mean "shortened tail", i.e., "cocked" can mean cut or docked. Even if this is not so, I believe the term as applied to non-purebred horses is the most likely explanation of the term cocktail as applied to a form of drink.

    Gary

 

 

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