It's Cocktail Hour!

This week's video is part 2 of my look at the word "cocktail":

If you haven't seen part 1 yet, you can watch that here.

In this new video I look at what I think is the most likely etymology for cocktail. The OED puts the the drink sense and the horse sense of the word cocktail together, and I'm inclined to agree. On the surface the horse connection seems one of the less likely, but linguistically it seems to be on the most solid ground, since there's clear early evidence of various colloquial uses of the word "cocktail". Also widely reported is the eggcup story connected with the invention of the Sazerac, and while a New Orleans origin is tempting, the dates don't work out--the apothecary Peychaud's invention seems to date to the 1830s (see the website of the Sazerac company, which now distributes the bitters), which is over thirty years after the earliest instances of the word being used, as we saw in the last video. However, it does gesture towards the important contribution of 19th century America in the development and popularization of the cocktail. Though I'm inclined to accept the British birth of both the drink and the word, the cocktail as we know it now "grew up" in the US, as I've touched on with references to early cocktail recipe books and Prohibition, along with other more tangential examples of Americana such as Nast and Hemingway.

Another early cocktail recipe book, this one by William "Cocktail" Boothby.

Another early cocktail recipe book, this one by William "Cocktail" Boothby.

One of the interesting American connections that was split up over the two episodes, is that both the Democratic and Republican parties are name-dropped in the videos, but here's a close up image of those two references, just because it amuses me:

cocktail closeup 6.png

In my discussion of the other sense of the word cocktail, "a person assuming the position of a gentleman, but deficient in thorough gentlemanly breeding", I use an illustration from Jane Austen's novel Northanger Abbey. The character John Thorpe in it is a rather nice example of this. He constantly pretends to be rather more than he is, driving a tricked out but actually inferior carriage, much like a young man today might have a car which is made out to look fancier than it actually is.


On the subject of pictures, I couldn't find a picture of Alec Waugh, so I had to go with a picture of his more famous brother Evelyn Waugh--hope that wasn't too confusing. I also couldn't find a picture that I was sure I could use of a cocktail shaker in the shape of a teapot, but there are many such pictures on the internet. Here's one:

You can read more about the development of the cocktail shaker here. And this is the George Bishop book I mentioned at the beginning of the video. I can strongly recommend having a look at Jerry Thomas's How to Mix Drinks, or The Bon-Vivant's Companion, which you can download in a variety of formats. There are some really interesting early cocktails in there, if you want to explore mixing up some unusual drinks.

I've already settled on the next cocktail name to feature in a video--keep your eye on the cocktail word playlist for future videos. So get mixing, and if you have any questions or suggestions for other cocktail names to look into, send them my way. Cheers!