This week's video marks the beginning of a new semi-regular series of videos on the etymology of cocktail names. This first episode is part one of a look at the word "cocktail" itself, as well as at the history of the development of the cocktail:
In two weeks I'll post part two, which will cover some more proposed etymologies for the word, and will also look a bit at the cocktail as a social institution. Later on I'll continue to post from time to time videos that will look at the etymology of specific cocktail names. I've already picked the next one, but I'm happy to take suggestions.
There's no more consensus on the origin of the word "cocktail" than there is on the origin of the drink itself, and much has been written on both scores. Beyond the usual linguistic sources, I've looked at a number of sources, many of which you can see listed here. Many of the proposed origins of the word that I discuss in this video (and in part 2) are, of course, are false etymologies, or are based on proposed folk etymologies, but I've tried to gather together as many as I could find, no matter how likely they are, because they are both fun and instructive in how they build up an interesting historical web of connections. Cocktail part 1 is in many ways a lesson in European foreign policy, exploration, and colonization, with the British East India Company, the Napoleonic Wars, Colonial America, and the Conquistadors in the historical backgrounds here. The etymology is the jumping off point that can open up into many interesting historical byways. The varied histories of the drink and the word, interesting in and of themselves, are also emblematic of the complex interplay of history, and this historical relationship with something entertaining like cocktails will make those histories all the more memorable. Think about that next time you raise a glass!
A few additional things to call attention to: Jared Brown and Anistatia Miller, who I mentioned backdated the earliest reference of the word "cocktail" can be found on the web here, and Jared has an excellent article about the history of the drink here. You can have a look at James Fenimore Cooper's The Spy here. I briefly mention La Malinche, aka Dona Marina, Cortez's translator and mistress. Apparently she was quite a polygot, able to guide the Conquistador through many varied languages of Mexico, such as Nahuatl, Chontal Mayan language, and various other dialects--an interesting figure in her own right who only gets a passing mention here.
So tune in again in two weeks for the exciting conclusion to "Cocktail", and leave any suggestions for any cocktail names you'd like me to cover in the comments. Cheers!