Whether it’s a Martini, Manhattan or Mai Tai, everyone has their favourite tipple in the cocktail department.
Far from being a recent development, however, our love affair with these mixed concoctions is not only one that spans centuries, but one which began in London. Read on to delve into the history of cocktails, right up to their origin story.
Until recently, it was the Americans who claimed the kudos when it came to the first usage of the word “cocktail”, found in a Vermont newspaper published all the way back in 1803. Now it seems, however, that the British pipped the US to the post by a good five years in the history of cocktails…
Far from being a recent development, however, our love affair with these mixed concoctions is not only one that spans centuries, but one which began in London
March 20th 1798 was a significant day in the history of cocktails: it was the day “cock-tail” entered the English vocabulary, printed in The Morning Post and Gazetteer, a long-defunct publication of London. The word was used in a satirical list of who owed what in the heart of British politics after a tavern owner cleared his regulars’ tabs after winning a lottery. It was Pitt the Younger who was said to have owed for, among other drinks, a “cock-tail (vulgarly called ginger)”. What the drink actually was is unclear, but one theory is that it took its name from the practice of ‘cocking’ (cutting short) the tails of horses that were of more than one breed in order to distinguish them from pedigrees. From mixed breed, to mixed drinks – however the name came to be, the Americans can still boast the first printed definition of the term, which appeared in 1806 as “a stimulating liquor, composed of spirits of any kind, sugar, water and bitters.”
Celebrate London’s love affair with the cocktails we still know and adore with a Sipsmith Gin Twist.
The Gin Twist
Twenty-five years later on in the history of cocktails, the Gin Twist, a simple drink composed of a Gin Toddy with fresh lemon juice (garnished with a twist to prove it), was taking London by storm. Newspapers even published poems written in tribute to the beloved cocktail – one was a whopping 149 lines long… Mid-way through the nineteenth century and the French chef Alexis Benoit Soyer was changing the world of mixed drinks in London with the first jelly shots, blue drinks and sparkling cream cocktails. It didn’t take long after that until William Terrington’s Cooling Cups and Dainty Drinks was published in 1869 – the first British drinks book to include a section dedicated to cocktails – one of which was a “Gin Cocktail” – a gin and ginger pairing.
A Historical Tipple
Celebrate London’s love affair with the cocktails we still know and adore with a Sipsmith Gin Twist – we love The Rare Tea Co.’s fabulous recipe for a hot version of the drink, which uses strong RAF tea to bring the heat as well as a traditional British flavour.