Friday Night: Who invented cocktails, anyway?

Mention the word “cocktail” and you somehow conjure up an image of louche bourgeoise sophistication. Of plush Manhattan hotels, tropical islands and well-paid adventurers like Messrs James Bond and Jay Gatsby. It used to irritate Lefty Lecturers at certain famous London Colleges when we refused to attend their extra classes on the grounds that “it was Friday Night Cocktails”, that’s for sure.

People have been drinking alcohol for thousands of years. So who came up with the idea of mixing spirits, fruits, strange little bottles of mixers, and lashings of ice? Ancient Sumerians? Bored pirates in the Caribbean? This week, we’ve done a little research which we hope will not only make interesting reading, it may spark you, gentle readers, to try to make some of the strange precursors which our links will mention. Good luck, and happy mixing.

Wayne Curtis, The Atlantic Traces origins to a curious drink called a Rum Shrub in Georgian London. But, as with so many British ideas, the Americans nicked it and transformed it into something far, far more adaptable to the masses. Key player: a chap called “Professor” Jerry Thomas in 1862, when more serious Americans were slaughtering each other in the Battle of Chancellorsville.

Wikipedia Another great institution. Traces first appearance of word cocktail to 1803. A Mrs Julius S Walsh of St Louis, Missouri in 1917. Cocktails were big in Prohibition, because you could disguise all that illegal hooch behind fruit juice. They have enjoyed a revival since 2000, as recipes have been swapped on the internet.

The Spruce Eats has a lovely section tracing the origins of our favourite drink through its etymology. Nice bright breezy website, which we have used before for recipes on this page.

We don’t want to burden you down with excessive reading lists, so that’s it for one night. Have a great weekend.

#jerry thomas #rum shrub #prohibition #james bond

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