A cocktail, by definition, is a combination of several alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks. As these are mixed, the result is a drink unique in appearance and unique in the pleasure it brings, with a dominant flavour accompanied by additional flavours to make it perfect. According to an international rule, a cocktail cannot contain more than 6 cl alcohol and more than 5 ingredients. The volume of a long drink should be no more than 25 cl. They can be alcoholic or non-alcoholic.
But where does alcohol come from?
Legend has it that a Persian king, Jamshid shah, was fond of grapes. He piled up an enormous amount of it in his palace, and naturally some of it was squeezed and started to rot.
The king said it was poison and had all of it taken to the cellars. One day Gulnare, a lady in the shah’s harem, was suffering from a terrible migraine. So much so that she decided to kill herself to escape from her ripping headache. So she went down to the cellar, and had some of the drink the king claimed was poison. She did not die, but felt numb and had warm and pleasant sensations, and danced before the king in some kind of trance.
When it became clear what happened, the king started to produce wine. Wine is called zeher-e-koosh in the Middle East — it means delightful poison.
Legends of the cocktail
Alcohol was known in Babylon, Egypt and ancient Greece, and was mostly used for religious purposes. Let me present some (but not all) of the legends about how the cocktail evolved from that.
In the 18th century cockfighting was popular. The cock that killed its opponent, or the one that managed to keep more torn tail feathers won the fight. After the fight, the audience drank a toast: the number of feathers the poor tattered, yet victorious bird had left in its tail defined the number of different kinds of drinks to be mixed. This is the origin of the term cocktail.
An innkeeper’s daughter in America fell in love, but her father did not allow her to marry. Soon after that the innkeeper’s fighting cock disappeared without a trace. Devastated, the man decided to offer his daughter’s hand in marriage to anyone who would bring back the cock, as it was much more valuable than the girl. The lucky person to find it was the original suitor, and finally they could get married. The father of the bride mixed all the drinks in the inn, much to the delight of the guests.
The king of Mexico, Axolotl II had a daughter called Coctel. In the 19th century, this young lady served a special drink to American officers coming to the court. As the soldiers thought that Coctel was the name of the drink they had, not of the princess, from then on strong and tasty drinks have been called cocktails.
The first mixtures
The first recipe book was published in the 17th century by the Destiller’s Company, which, in fact, contained the recipes of mixed drinks for medicinal purposes. The definition of cocktail first appeared in Balance magazine in 1806, and it said ‘Cock-tail is a stimulating liquor, composed of spirits of any kind, sugar, water, and bitters.’ In 1862 the first cocktail collection in the modern sense was published.
A lot of people fell for these drinks during the Prohibition era, so it was obvious that future generations would have them, too. Cocktails have become much more refined since. Naturally the goal that the many ingredients should mask the taste of something inconsumable is now just history. Now – at high quality, prestigious places – guests are served exclusive creations made of noble drinks.