It’s almost National Cocktail Day, which means it’s the perfect time to relax and kick up your feet with a Manhattan or a Long Island Iced Tea – but before you whip up your favorite mixed drink, we’re giving you another great way to celebrate with these 3 things you didn’t know about cocktails. Bottoms up!
1. No one knows for sure why it’s called a “cocktail.”
There are about as many different explanations for the meaning behind the term “cocktail” as there are varieties of cocktails to order at a bar. That’s right, no one knows the true story behind how the cocktail got its name, but there are a few educated guesses.
One rumor says that the first cocktail appeared in the 17th century, when it was reportedly topped with a unique garnish – a rooster’s tail – giving us the name cocktail.
Another explanation comes from a British publication from 1936. It described that when British sailors first visited Mexico, they were served mixed drinks stirred with a Cola de Gallo, a root shaped like a rooster’s tail. As a result, the drink quickly became referred to as the cocktail.
Yet another everlasting tale connects the mixed drink’s origins to the term for a mixed-breed horse. When horse racing was big in America – and not just in Kentucky – a mixed-breed horse was commonly referred to as a cocktail. At a time when horse racing and drinking went hand-in-hand (as they still do), the popular mixed drink soon became referred to as a cocktail.
Whichever story you choose to believe, the name for cocktails has stood the test of time.
2. You can taste the recipe for the world’s earliest cocktail.
If you walked into a bar today and said, “I want a cocktail,” the bartender would probably look at you like you were crazy. While the term “cocktail” may refer to hundreds of combinations of drinks today, it was originally used to reference one type of mixed drink.
Historically, the original recipe for a cocktail was first recorded by Scottish soldier J. E. Alexander in 1831. The base for Alexander’s drink included your choice of brandy, gin, or rum with a ratio of one-third spirit to two-thirds water. His cocktail also calls for an unspecified amount of bitters, enriched with sugar and nutmeg.
Despite there being a multitude of different cocktail recipes out there today (thank you bartenders), the recipe for the signature cocktail lives on, albeit as a slightly modernized version. You can make this updated iteration of Alexander’s cocktail by combining brandy, orange curacao, bitters, and ice. Yum!
3. There is a difference between “Cocktail Hour” and “Happy Hour.”
Even though both bring us joy, there is a difference between cocktail hour and happy hour.
By definition, there are several factors that separate the two, but the term “happy hour” does, technically, stem from “cocktail hour.”
Happy hours are typically used at restaurants, bars, and clubs to attract customers to stay longer or to attract additional business during slower periods. Usually, this involves some kind of drink special – think half-priced margaritas or bottomless mimosas. Some restaurants will even introduce entertainment, like a band or a special event, following happy hour to add to the appeal.
On the other hand, cocktail hour is more refined. Typically, this represents the time before dinner or a banquet where participants are invited to sip on drinks and enjoy conversation. Some cocktail hours are also paired with hors d’oeuvres or small bites to prepare the palette for a meal.
The best way to remember the difference between the two is that you’d want a cocktail hour at your wedding, not a happy hour; for you and your guests, the whole event should be happy!
How cocktails continue to change what the world is drinking.
While the cocktail originates as far back as the 17th century, there is a new wave of innovation among the spirits industry that is making cocktails more popular than ever. Enter, the Ready-to-Drink (RTD) cocktail.
Data hub Nielson reports that the RTD beverage category saw 83% growth in off-premise sales during 2019, on par with predictions that we will continue to see a rise in the popularity of low-ABV RTDs over other alcohol offers like beer, wine, and spirits.
These trends are backed by the overall movement towards “healthier,” less potent alcoholic beverages. Gone are the days of binging on calorie-rich beer and sugary cocktails. RTD beverages, including hard seltzers and other hybrid offers, are entering the market at lower ABVs sporting “healthy halo” flavors and ingredients, fueling RTDs as the preferred beverage alcohol category for health-conscious consumers. The best part for consumers is that it’s also one of the most convenient options, allowing them to enjoy their favorite cocktails in as little time as it takes to open a can.
Thanks to the drink’s popularity, Nielson predicts the RTD industry will grow to a whopping $4.6 billion by 2024 which is great news for beverage developers.
If you’re an existing beverage brand, an RTD beverage is the perfect way to expand your product lines. Spirits brands can easily incorporate their product into RTD versions of well-known cocktails. And if you’re a drink company with an already delicious recipe for a lemonade, sparkling water, or another beverage, then why not make an adults-only version of your beloved drink?
Whether you’re an existing company or a passionate entrepreneur, the beverage development experts at Flavorman are the best partner in the business to help you bring your next RTD drink to life. To get started, simply fill out this web form or give us a call at (502) 273-5214.
How Gin Met Tonic: Origins of the Perfect Pairing
Thanksgiving Drinks to Sip All Day: Cocktails, Punch and More