The mystery is solved — sort of

Ever wonder why it’s called a cocktail? I have, and I set out to learn the answer. So, I checked with Gary (Gaz) Regan, my friend and business associate and, a fountainhead of information about all sorts of booze business matters. He has written 18 books on the business including, 101 best new Cocktails, The Bartender’s Gin Compendium, and The Joy of Mixology.

It turns out that in the new revised and updated edition of The Joy of Mixology, Gaz addresses this question at the outset of this amazing book, which is full of anecdotes, stories, and cocktail recipes. With his permission here are some excerpts on “How Did a Cocktail Come to be called a Cocktail?

On May 13, 1806, the Balance and Columbian Repositor y of Hudson, New York, answered a reader’s query as to the nature of a cocktail: “Cocktail is a stimulating liquor, composed of spirits of any kind, sugar, water, and bitters—it is vulgarly called a bittered sling.” The cocktail had been born, it had been defined, and yet it couldn’t have been very well known by the general populace, or the newspaper wouldn’t have considered it a fit topic for elucidation.

Where does the word cocktail come from? There are many answers to that question, and none is really satisfactory. One particular favorite story of mine, though, comes from The Booze Reader: A Soggy Saga of a Man in His Cups, by George Bishop: “The word itself stems from the English cock-tail which, in the middle 1800s, referred to a woman of easy virtue who was considered desirable but impure. The word was imported …