Cocktail Of The Week
Bellini
A bartender's beauty is in his moves, in the way he struts his stuff, in the field of rhythms that is set up in the orchestrated hatching of a large order of drinks.

MasterClass

Why is a cocktail called a cocktail?
There are many stories that claim to be the source of the word ‘cocktail’; some are simple adulterations of foreign words or of phrases. Others involve elaborate stories of Princesses or Revolutionary soldiers. None of these stories can categorically claim to be the true origin of the word, but all give a picture of the world in which cocktails evolved and add to the colourful culture of cocktails and cocktail bartending.

Make your own mind up as to which of the following theories you believe, all are fairly plausible, but don’t dismiss the more elaborate tales, you may be surprised:

The Aztec Princess
In the early 19th century control over what we now know as Mexico was being fought between the American Army of the Southern States and the Aztec King Axolotl VIII. After many bloody battles a meeting was called to negotiate a truce. After many hours of negotiation, the truce was finally agreed, and the King called for a drink to toast the occasion. So away went the King's daughter to mix up a drink for the General and her father. She came back a little while later, but with only one drink. She immediately realized that if the King were to drink first it may offend the General and the General would not drink first for fear of insulting his host. All eyes were on the Princess at this potentially deal breaking moment, the Princess thought fast and to avoid offence or embarrassment drank the drink herself. This instantly cut the atmosphere and more drinks were ordered. The General, impressed by the Princesses quick thinking, asked the King what his daughter's name was, and when the drinks arrived the General raised a toast to ‘Xochitl’ corrupted to ‘Cocktail’.

Cock’s Tail
Many stories revolve around some use of a Cock’s Tail. Some involve the sport of cock fighting, others purely the decoration of drinks using the aforementioned plumage:-
- Fighting cocks were given a mixture of ale and spirits by there trainers before a match and this was known as ‘Cock’s Ale’. Anybody getting a little punchy after a few drinks could be said to have been on the ‘Cock’s Ale’
- Drinks were often garnished with feathers, for decoration and to let tee-totallers know that the drink contained alcohol
- Another story tells of Jupiter, prized fighting Cock, who went missing from the Bunch of Grapes Inn. Her owner, Daisy, was distraught until a young soldier came to the Inn with Jupiter under his arm. Daisy immediately mixed the soldier up a drink and toasted to the cock’s tail, as not a feather had been lost during his absence.
- One famous story involves innkeeper Betsy Flanagan or some stories credit it with Catherine Hustler, serving a mixed gin drink to French soldiers fighting in the American war of independence and garnishing the drinks with the tail feathers of her loyalist neighbours rooster which she had stolen and served to her guests. The soldiers toasted there host with ‘Vive la Cocktail!’
- Another story, not strictly about a cock’s tail, but on a similar theme, is a corruption of the French word ‘coquetier’ meaning egg cup. Antoine Peychaud, chemist and creator of the famous bitters that bare his name, would serve his guests drinks containing brandy, sugar and his famous bitters (an early Sazarac) in an egg cup.

Cross Breeds
It was common in the 1800’s to dock the tails of non thoroughbred racehorses to distinguish them from there thoroughbred counterparts. These ‘cock tailed’ horses were good and strong, but were of mixed breeding and so not as valuable. This term came to be used when ordering a good, strong mixed drink.

Bottom of the Barrel
Spirits often arrived at inns in barrels. This would then have to be tapped with a stop cock. When the barrel got too low to be drawn via the tap, it was mixed with the ‘tails’ of other barrels and sold at a reduced price. Customers, low on funds, would then ask for the ‘cock tailings’ or a mixture of spirits from several barrels.

Cola de Gallo
Another story which originates in Mexico tells of how English sailors, ashore at Campeche in Yucatan, were enjoying a drink called a drac, or El Draque (little dragon, Sir Francis Drakes nickname). Without a spoon to mix the concoction they used the root of a plant called Cola de Gallo, which in English translates to ‘a cock’s tail’. The sailors then took to asking for there Cola de Gallo drinks, or Cock’s Tail drinks.


These are just a select few of the many stories and explanation of the etymology of the word cocktail. Every bartender has there favourite or the one they find the most plausible, and enjoy sharing them with customers and other bartenders. Do your own research and decide which one you feel the most likely or just pick your favourite story and elaborate