10 Facts About Cocktails You Didn’t Know
For many, a cocktail is more than just a beverage. It is a way to relax and have fun amidst all the love and warmth of friends, family, or even strangers. These drinks are refreshing, flavorful, and attractive to look at. They are also ideal for celebrating a special occasion or simply unwinding after a long day. Cocktail roots can be traced back to the British punches, too. But it’s the Americans who elevated the humble punch bowl to new heights and made it the ubiquitous drink we know and love today. So, as cocktail season fast approaches, let’s raise a glass and celebrate this iconic drink with fun facts about cocktails you might not know!
1. The first cocktail was called a “Sling.”
The first recorded cocktail was made in the late 1700s and was called a “bittered Sling.” The word “Sling” comes from the German term “shcligen,” which means “to swallow.” The term generally refers to stimulating liquor with several base ingredients. They were similar to the many hot punches served at the time, including Toddies. They were typically not flavored by adding spices. Add that to your bank of knowledge regarding facts about cocktails.
The Sling is a single-serving punch made with a teaspoon of sugar, an ounce of water, two ounces of spirits, and a lump of ice. Later on, the invention of bitters brought about the cocktail, made by adding a spirit, sugars, and bitters to make it essentially an Old Fashioned. This distinction is no longer made with all alcoholic mixed beverages, now referred to as cocktails, including Sling.
2. The origin of the word “cocktail” remains mysterious.
You can’t have a fun facts about cocktails conversation without an origin story. The origin of the word “cocktail” is still unknown, with several competing theories. One particularly popular theory is that cocktail was originally slang for a ginger drink. According to cocktail historians, traders would give their horses ginger suppositories to improve energy. Ginger would cause their tails to lift. A “cocked-up tail” meant a spirited horse ideal for breeding and other purposes.
Another theory is that the term cocktail comes from the French word for an egg cup, “coquetier.” “Coquetier” refers to the last dregs from spirit barrels mixed and sold as cheap “cock-tailings.” Yet another fascinating idea is that the word cocktail originated from a Mexican mixed drink that was stirred with a chicken feather, literally a “cock’s tail.” Stirring was an effective way of combining liquours to get a clearer drink with a denser body.
The term “cocktail” first appeared in a British newspaper in March 1798 regarding a stimulating beverage containing sugar, water, and bitters. Back then, bitters were seen as having medicinal properties and were used to treat diverse conditions, from jaundice and hangovers to indigestion.
3. Cocktail mixology was once considered a profession with a low reputation.
Here are some facts about cocktails you may not know. It may be booming today, but mixology, the art of creating cocktails, was once perceived through the lens of ethical issues and multiple legal constraints related to serving alcohol. For many people, bartending was a lowly profession with little job security, low wages, and few benefits, if any.
It wasn’t until the 19th-century that this view began to shift. The first professional mixologists appeared in the late eighteenth century with the invention of the first cocktails in England and the United States. In the following decades, some bartending pioneers, including the American Jerry Thomas, revolutionized mixology as a profession through their writing. Jerry Thomas is the creator of dry martini and author of Bartender’s Guide, the first cocktail recipes book published in 1862 in the United States.
As the popularity of cocktails rose across the world, bartending became more of a profession, complete with its own trends, trade fairs, training schools, and more. After the First World War bartending profession split up into luxury hotel mixologists specializing in refined cocktails and bartenders tending pubs and cafes. Today, the profession is in huge demand, with new trends helping restore the glory of what was once an undervalued profession.
4. Some cocktails contain unexpected ingredients.
Not all cocktails contain conventional ingredients. As the search for more flavor, textures, and ways of making cocktails intensifies, bartenders are experimenting with unexpected ingredients such as absinthe, oysters, or even garlic to make unique and delicious cocktails. Today’s bar patrons focus on healthy lifestyles, and in response, popular drinks and famous bars are replacing processed sugars and syrups in cocktails with more natural ingredients.
Don’t be surprised to find some of the following rather tasty but weird ingredients in your favorite beverage creations:
- Mushrooms: A little fungus can give your drink a more earthy flavor. Most pubs use dry vermouth infused with mushrooms instead of the actual mushroom. Today, porcini mushrooms are also ground and used to give cocktails a kick.
- Root veggies: All types of root veggies, from beet, ginger, and garlic to carrots, have become staple ingredients in several signature cocktails, such as carrot whiskey, Moscow mules, and sparkling zingy drinks. As fun facts about cocktails, these ingredients are ideal for mixologists looking for healthy and natural alternatives to add flavors and bitterness to cocktails.
- Peas: Peas used in cocktails can be muddled, glazed, pebbled, or pureed. Peas have a versatile form and spectrum of flavors, making them ideal for pairing a range of spirits from gin to rum. Some popular cocktails infused with pea ingredients include spring pea mojito and mint kombucha.
- Bell peppers: Jalapenos and other spicy peppers have found their way into the world of cocktails. Mixologists use these ingredients to spice up several cocktails. Bell peppers come in different colors, which allow bartenders to use them based on the season. Some popular peppered cocktails include the Red Pepper Martini and Bellini cocktail.
5. Alcohol has been used for medicinal purposes for thousands of years.
For thousands of years, alcohol claimed an undisputed place among potions and healing herbs and was once considered a cure-all magic. Throughout the early ages, a drop of gin was popularly used to cure the plague, and a sip of absinthe recommend as a cure for roundworms, while a glass of wine was advised to “defend the body from corruption.”
Around the time America was founded, alcohol was used to aid digestion and thought to contribute to warming the body. With time alcohol was even used to sedate women during labor and treat things such as colds and fevers. During the mid-nineteenth century, alcohol was used in surgery as the main painkiller.
But it is the combination of alcohol and natural botanicals that created a far more effective medicine and the origin of the most famous phrase, “Let’s drink to health,” which alcohol lovers world over use to toast their favorite drink.
6. Serving temperature affects the way a cocktail serves.
Temperature is an integral part of how we experience flavor. The temperature at which a cocktail is served can greatly impact its taste and overall enjoyment. Your nose typically plays a great role in how one perceives the effect of temperature on the taste profile of their drink. The warmer that drink is, the more alcohol will evaporate. With more alcohol in the air, a drink will seem stronger because more vapors will make their way into your nose.
Nearly all drinks have an optimum temperature that enhances their aroma and flavors.
Except for drinks such as Hot Toddy, cocktails tend to be consumed chilled or drunk at or near room temperature. This is because cocktails are designed to be enjoyed at a particular temperature, and allowing them to warm up too much can upset their balance. However, serving a spirit too cold can inhibit its aromas, impacting its taste. The right serving temperature for spirits and cocktails is between 17°C to 20°C. This is an ideal temperature range that reveals more of the drink’s character and flavors.
7. Glassware matters in the presentation and taste of cocktails.
Glassware is where the taste of a great cocktail begins. Research shows the choice of glassware not only enhances one’s perception of the drink’s quality and impacts its taste. And these are facts about cocktails that affect your sipping experiences. A great cocktail demands an equally great glass. Today’s enthusiasts expect their cocktails to be presented in a clean, correctly differentiated glassware. Luckily there are countless styles out there to suit every occasion, and getting to know the right glassware for the specific cocktail type will elevate your guests’ experience. The following glasses are some of the types of cocktail glasses that should find a place in your home bar:
- Coupe glasses: Coupe glasses are ideal for cocktails served up, such as a martini or frozen.
- High glass: This is best used for cocktails served on the rocks, such as rum and coke, gin and tonic, and dark and stormy.
- Collins glass: Collins glass or highball glass is named after the Tom Collins cocktail. It is ideal for Mojito, Paloma, and Tom Collins cocktails.
- Zombie glass: this glass was initially designed to hold the Zombie cocktail. However, you can use your Zombie glass to serve a range of other cocktails, such as Tequila Sunrise and Fuzzy Navel.
- Rocks Glass: Also called old fashioned or lowball glass, this short and wide glass is ideal for classic cocktails such as Old Fashioned, Negroni, and Sazerac.
8. Margarita is the undisputed king of cocktail kingdom.
The margarita is undeniably the most popular cocktail in the world and has been around since the 1930s. The bright and balanced drink ticks all the boxes when it comes to its sweet, sour, salt, and boozy profiles. According to a Nielsen Survey, cocktails are the most loved drink in the US, taking over America by storm. A classic margarita has three ingredients; tequila, triple-sec orange liqueur, and lime juice. The lime and triple sec fend off any bite from tequila, while the liqueur enhances their notes. The drink is mainly shaken and served straight or over ice in an old-fashioned glass. You can also blend your drink with ice and serve it frozen in a glass with salt on the rim.
9. Moderate alcohol consumption has several health benefits.
There are several health benefits associated with moderate alcohol consumption. You might already be familiar with these facts about cocktails, but there’s more. Moderate alcohol use for healthy adults typically means up to two daily drinks for men and one drink a day for women. Some of the health benefits of moderate alcohol consumption include:
- Reducing the risks of heart disease and stroke
- Reducing risks of diabetes
- It raises good cholesterol
- It can lower your risk of death
- It may help strengthen bones
- It can be a mood lifter
10. Cocktails have deep-rooted cultural and historical significance.
Some cocktails have cultural and historical significance. Popular cocktails such as the Mai Tai, which is said to have originated in Tahiti, are a symbol of Polynesian culture. The delicious rum-based cocktail creates a space where guests can escape reality and get transported to an ideal world. The story of how Mai Tai got its name is an interesting one. Pundits have it that the drink was invented by Victor J. Bergeron, Jr. from San Francisco in 1944. One day Victor’s friends from Tahiti came visiting, and when one of them was offered the drink, he tasted it and cried, “Maita’i roa ae!” meaning “the very best!” the drink remains one of the very best to date.
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