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Earliest Written Cocktail Reference Discovered? (1709)

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Tatler, 1709

Earliest Written Cocktail Reference Discovered? (1709)
December 31
22:29 2015

What is the earliest reference to a ‘cocktail’ in written record?

1806 in New York?

1789 in London?

How about 80 years earlier?

Received wisdom points towards an editorial in the May 13, 1806, edition of The Balance and Columbian Repository, a publication in Hudson, New York:

“Cock-tail is a stimulating liquor, composed of spirits of any kind, sugar, water, and bitters—it is vulgarly called bittered sling, and is supposed to be an excellent electioneering potion, in as much as it renders the heart stout and bold, at the same time that it fuddles the head. It is said, also to be of great use to a democratic candidate: because a person, having swallowed a glass of it, is ready to swallow any thing else.”

This accepted credit as the earliest reference to a cocktail was widely considered to be dispelled by the legendary drinks historian and Mixellany guru, Jared Brown, who in 2014 unearthed the following from The Morning Post and Gazetteer in London, England on March 20, 1798:

Mr. Pitt,
two petit vers of “L’huile de Venus”
Ditto, one of “perfeit amour”
Ditto, “cock-tail” (vulgarly called ginger)

Two things spring out from the page here:

1) Politicians using mixed drinks to their advantage is very much to the fore (Mr Pitt had a short jaunt from the Houses of Parliament to the specified drinking den in Downing St).

2) The 1798 reference doesn’t directly call a cocktail a mixed alcoholic drink.

However, a great friend of Drinking Trends, Mr Julian DeNéchaud DeFeral, (he of Gorgeous Group fame) has brought to our attention an article from Tatler from 1709(!!!!!!)

Penned by the indomitable Sir John Steele in February 1709 it certainly chimes with the craft of the basement bartender we all know and love (see featured picture).

While the word cocktail admittedly does not appear in the piece, is this the earliest written reference to the craft of mixing alcohol in bars creatively?

Please let us know what you think in the comments below…

image

Industry Expert

Charlie McCarthy

Charlie McCarthy

A seasoned veteran of the international drinks scene, our Managing Editor, has spent the last decade opening new venues across the globe, consulting for key drinks industry groups, running A-list parties, and advising major spirit and beverage brands. Through his work with All About The Cocktail, Charlie has become a respected figure in on-line, televised and print media for the global drinks industry. If it involves making drinks, chatting about drinks, thinking about drinks, writing about drinking, or drinking drinks, Charlie has been 'biting that bullet' since 2000.

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