If the over efficiency of the sling took the pendulum too far to the short side across from punch, then the creation of a drink called “cock-tail” functioned as a slight correction of that overreach. And that correction was not just about time, it was also about taste.
The earliest printed reference to cocktail anyone has been able to find so far was in 1803 with something close enough to a recipe offered in a newspaper item in 1806. It was in this entry in which “cock-tail” was referenced as a “bittered sling”, with nothing more than a bit of bitters added to a sling.
With various improvements and fancifications of the archetype, it appears that the cocktail maintained its essential identity for about a century. But as happens to so many of America’s most popular creations, it became kleenexed, xeroxed, and band-aided into a generic term referring to a vast category encompassing any mixed drink at all.
The Archetypal Mix
Spirit, Sweet, Spice, and Water
In this case, the spice is almost exclusively bitters and should include the various amari (e.g., Compari, Aperol, etc.). It would be a mistake, however, to completely rule out the use of a traditional spice, but then a lot depends on how said spice is used. Again, we’re mixing hooch so there will be no pat answers.
Some common or classic drinks that fit the
Old Fashioned, Sazerac, Champagne Cocktail, East India Cocktail, Hot Buttered Rum, Spiced Cider (hot or cold), Widow’s Kiss, and Kentucky Colonel
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