Where do Cocktails Come From? Introduction to Making Cocktails
Introduction to Making Cocktails
Mixed drinks are just about as ancient as wine, but the first record of anything that we might recognise as a cocktail appeared in the 16th century.
The advent of the modern cocktail, however, had to wait until this century and arose, ironically, as a result of Prohibition in the United States. In the 1920s, when the distilling and selling of alcohol were made illegal. The freedom to drink is not exactly enshrined in the Constitution, but many Americans clearly felt it should have been. So, when some enterprising entrepreneurs, such as Al Capone, set about producing and selling (both by rather dubious methods) homemade spirits, they quickly found a ready market. However, bootleg whiskey and bathtub gin could be very variable in quality and were often perfectly dreadful. To counteract (and disguise) the taste, American barmen offered the thirsting population the cocktail, defined as the addition of fruit juices and other flavourings to an alcoholic base to make it more palatable.
The cocktail has never really lost its popularity in the United States, but its fortunes in Britain have been more erratic. The ‘bright young things’ of the 1920s embraced this transatlantic invention with enthusiasm. Cocktail bars appeared in even the most traditional of high-class hotels and British barmen were very soon making cocktails andthey learned to wield their shakers with relish. However, among the deprivations caused by World War II was a shortage of spirits; the British had too much on their minds to resort to the bathtub distillery and the cocktail virtually disappeared.
With the recent fashionable nostalgia for a bygone era came the revival of interest making cocktails and a new generation of cocktail drinkers. In the past few years, cocktail bars have proliferated and even many pubs now offer a ‘happy hour’ where you can see the bartender making cocktails to order.