By Pink Lady
Between Derby Day (the first Saturday of May) and Cinco de Mayo, this month is off to a rollicking start with drinking occasions. Keep the momentum up this year by adding World Cocktail Day, May 13th, to your celebration calendar. May 13th was christened World Cocktail Day by the Museum of the American Cocktail in 2OO6, the 2OOth anniversary of the first printed definition of the word “cocktail.” This appeared in response to a curious reader of THE BALANCE AND COLUMBIAN REPOSITORY OF HUDSON, NEW YORK: “never in my life, though I have lived a good many years, did I hear of cock-tail,” they write, following up on a piece about a recent election where the losing candidate spent a pretty penny on bitters and cock-tail for its constituents to no avail. Editor Harry Crowell replied on May 13, 18O6: “Cock tail, then, is a stimulating liquor, composed of spirits of any kind, sugar, water, and bitters – it is vulgarly called bittered sling,” and today, this is the definition we cocktail aficionados recite by heart.
Earlier references to the drink have been unearthed since World Cocktail Day 2OO6, including one from an 18O3 edition of the FARMERS CABINET OF AMHERST, NEW HAMPSHIRE. It appears in a humor piece purporting to be diary entry from a day in the life of a “lounger” who appears to have woken up hungover, “lounged to the Doctor’s” (a “famous lounge”) around 1O, “feeling squally.” Here he palled around with friends before having a little hair of the dog around 11: “Drank a glass of cocktail – excellent for the head.” Coincidentally, Amherst, NH is where I spent my teenage years, and I can confirm that there’s still not much else to do there.
Theories about where the term “cocktail” originated abound, all of which are entertaining. My favorite regards a mixed breed horse, which was commonly termed a “cock-tail” horse. “Bitters” were one type of popular drink taken by sporting men of the day and a “Sling” was another; this new “bittered sling” was thus something of a mixed breed, or “cock-tail” beverage. And it was most likely sipped by these sporting men as they placed bets on the ponies.
In honor of World Cocktail Day, and to keep the month of May merry, let’s toast with an Old Fashioned, considered by many to be the original cocktail in its true form.
2 OUNCES of bourbon or rye whiskey
3 dashes of Angostura bitters
1 teaspoon bar sugar
1 lemon peel
SPLASH water or soda
MUDDLE sugar and Angostura bitters in a SPLASH of soda until the sugar is dissolved, forming a syrup at the bottom of the glass.
ADD whiskey and ice and stir.
GARNISH with a fresh twist of lemon peel.