A history of cocktails - in short of course...
There are some of us out there who enjoy something sweet n' tangy, decorated with an umbrella. There are some of us who enjoy something stronger and robust with a cherry or an orange peel. There are those who prefer mixers or punches and of course there are those who prefer anything premixed from a bottle.
But whatever tickles your fancy, drinking a cocktail is a deeply personal experience that depends completely on your personal flavour profile and palate. But where do cocktails come from? Who invented them? And why?
Let's go back to the very beginning
People have been mixing their alcohol with spices and sweets for as long as we can tell however the very first time the word cocktail appeared in print was at the beginning of the nineteenth century when it was mentioned in the Balance and Columbian repository, an upstate New York newspaper, back in 1806. With restaurants on the rise all around the world it was Jerry "the professor" Thomas who published The Bartender's Guide. A true encyclopaedia to any bartender who was and still is looking to create excellent mixed drinks and because of his notable work Jerry is rightly so considered the spiritual father of bartending.
The birth of the classics
Travelling inspires most of us and while the world was getting smaller and people started moving more and further across the globe they took with them personal drink preferences, innovations and a hankering for new and improved ideas. Add ice to this global mix, the world of cocktails truly opened. Just imagine what it must have been like, attending a party in 1874, witnessing the birth of the Manhattan as we know it today. That perfect blend of Bourbon, Vermouth and Angostura Bitters. And only a few years later Harry Johnson's New and Improved Bartender's guide would go on and published the recipe for the Martini.
Traveling, Tiki & TGIF At the beginning of the 20th century all across the world we could feel the effects of Prohibition in America, causing talented and keen bartenders to travel the world. With them they took their cocktail ideas and incredible skills. But somewhere between the two great wars of the twentieth century, having been exposed to Polynesian culture, Ernest Raymond Beaumont Gantt realised that there was something very interesting in kitchy decor combined with heavy rum-based drinks. He founded a new trend when he opened up the first Tiki bar in Hollywood. While around the same time San Francisco was granted a Tiki bar of their own by Victor Bergereon, now known Trader Vic.
In the years that followed cocktail culture found its way into the homes and hearts of the people around the globe, creating new trends including pre-made cocktails and shooters. If it could be put it in a bottle, it was put in a bottle and as a result we can still find premixed drinks in our supermarkets such as Smirnoff Ice and Bacardi Breezer. It was also a time where singles bars started to pop up, decorated exactly to appeal to young women. TGI Fridays is credited with creating this trend as well as heralding the blended drinks.
Around the 1990s there was a resurgence of the classic cocktail culture as well as an upcoming new trend in bars. Cocktail bars became more stylish and classic cocktails came back on the menu with a focus on high quality products. By the beginning of the 21st century large party bars became known for their 'cocktails in a jug' concept which consisted mainly of a large amount of Ice and some basic ingredients to create fast and easy jugs of margaritas, cosmopolitans and anything else that will get to the party fast.
Always looking for new recipes
It is noticeable that many of the classic cocktails are still around and easily ordered at any self-respecting bar however social media has made it easier to discover new trends and flavours. Mixologists and bartenders all around the world are currently sharing their knowledge more and more and create fantastic new cocktails every day with ingredients that perhaps at the beginning of the 19th century we haven't even thought about.