This is a big question with a somewhat vague and complex answer: what is a cocktail and where does it come from?
Let's start at the beginning, where does this famous word "cocktail" come from?
The answer will certainly disappoint you, but no one can really know for sure where this famous word "cocktail" comes from! This actually goes back too far to be certain, however there are several theories on this subject.
First theory, the word cocktail would come from the 2 words "cock" and "tail" which mean "cock's tail" in French . Ok let's admit, but what connection? Well there too many theories exist, all more or less far-fetched, in any case really too uncertain to dwell here on each of them.
Second theory (slightly more probable), it is said that the word cocktail could come from the word "coquetel", which was a specific drink served centuries ago in an eggcup, from where the drink baptized cocktail.
These are the 2 most likely theories although, again, they are just theories.
The cocktail since its beginnings
If the origins of the word cocktail have never known the slightest certainty, on the other hand we know its first appearance.
The word would have appeared for the first time on May 3, 1806 in the New York newspaper "The Balance, and Columbian Repository", in which it is written "The cocktail is a stimulating drink composed alcohols of indifferent origins, sugar, water and bitters".
The meanings of the word "cocktail".
The word therefore appeared in 1806 to designate this precise mixture seen previously, and in 1862 Jerry Thomas published in his book "Bartenders Guide: How to mix them" the first "cocktail" recipes: Brandy cocktail, Gin cocktail, Whiskey cocktail or even Champagne Cocktail.
Then around 1920, the cocktail became the very general term we know today, namely a mixture of at least 2 drinks.
Jerry Thomas, the father of mixology.
It is impossible to tell the story of the cocktail without mentioning Jerry Thomas, who unfortunately many bartenders do not even know. In fact, Jerry Thomas is a bit for cocktails what Elvis is for rock...
Jerry Thomas (1830-1885) is considered the father of the cocktail, he did not invent it but introduced it to the world and made it known.
The "professor" Thomas is quite simply the first to publish the first book of cocktail recipes, it was in 1862 and it was this book entitled "Bartender's guide: How to mix drinks" which launched the cocktail.
It was Jerry Thomas who invented the Blue Blazer and the Tom & jerry. In his book he classifies cocktails according to families that have always remained relevant and theoretically learned in bar training schools: cobbler, egg nog, julep, flip or even sour.
Jerry Thomas is the bartender pictured above, performing his famous Blue Blazer.