Savvy Library

The Fascinating Origin of the Cocktail

Do you know when the first cocktail was made or who invented it? Read on to learn everything about the origin of the cocktail here.

How glorious are the sounds of delicious spirits and unique mixtures shaking vigorously in the hand of a well-trained barkeep? Very glorious we would say!

An expertly prepared cocktail can elevate your whole outlook and with the spirits industry skyrocketing to an over 27 billion dollar business, it is safe to say our cocktails are sticking around.

But what is the origin of the cocktail? Where do these tasty libations, like whisky cocktails, Manhattan or Martini come from?

The history (as most stories go) is long and well fought over. There are many legends and some hard facts concerning the origins of the word and the drink itself.

So, let’s take a look at this mysterious beverage’s roots and learn a little bit about the beloved cocktail origins.

The Origin of the Cocktail

For years, this topic has been largely debated. There are a lot of plausibilities, but not a lot of hard facts. The best course of action is to mix yourself a cocktail as we descend into the rabbit hole that is this history.

From the key players to the key components, the following building blocks have shaped the cocktail as we know it. 

The Name

What’s in a name? A lot, as it turns out. The most argued topic concerning the cocktail is likely the name. Let’s take a look at some of these possible origin stories.

Several different stories claim to be the true reason for the beverage’s name. The oldest and probably the silliest is the horsetail theory. 

In the 1700s, horse dealers would remedy a mixture of ginger and black pepper into a suppository. The creation would then be administered into the horses…erm…arse…causing the animals’ tail to remain lifted or “cocked-up”.

In turn, this would give the horse the appearance of vitality making for an easier sale. In the early days of the cocktail, ginger and pepper were used. From there, people could have used the name in correlation.

So, it is possible that this could be an original name source, but not likely. 

Another more plausible explanation could be from Sir Peychaud himself. In 1838, in New Orleans, Louisianna, Antoine Amedie Peychaud treated his guests to a family recipe of bitters still used in bars around the world today.

The drink that maybe started it all was the “coquetier” or the French word for “egg-cup”, which Antoine Peychaud served his drink in. The word, when pronounced, sounds very similar to cocktail, so that may be where the word is derived.

Another possible origin for the same comes from Catherine”Kitty” Hustler. She and her husband were both inn-keepers in the Four Corners area of New York City. The character Bettyin James Fenimore Copper’s novel “The Spy”,is based on Catherine.

It is said that “Kitty” (a.k.a “Betty”), served a drink to soldiers garnished with a roosters tail… hence cocktail.

There are several other wild theories about where the name cocktail came from, but these are the classics!

What Made a Cocktail a Cocktail?

From modern-day Boozy Market cocktail recipes to the classic recipes of Peychaud himself, cocktail ingredients have captivated us for years.

While many things are up in the air concerning the cocktail, the cocktail original ingredients are pretty straight forward. The recipe for the original formula is as follows:

*Spirits of any kind




It was in 1806 that the newspaper, Balance and Columbian Repository, published the original ingredients of the timeless drink.The addition of the bitters is what brought forth the cocktail.

Before these, mixed drinks were largely referred to as slings. While recipes vary now, the original ingredients were the platform for modern-day variants.

Key Players in Cocktail Formation

There are a few key players we must address within the early origin days of the cocktail world. These folks all likely play roles in this origin story, whether or not one is the originator is, of course,a mystery.

The Reverend Richard Stoughton was a London based doctor whose famous elixir was one of the first medicines to receive a British royal patent.

His apothecary housed many different tinctures and bitters that were used in various cocktails. One specific recipe the Purl Royal is touted as one of the original cocktails.

Jerry Thomas was a pioneering bartender hailing from New York.

In 1862 when his guide was published, it was the first published book on drinks in the United States. The book featured the first written recipes for some of the original cocktails like fizzes and sours.

These are just a few of the early members of the cocktail world. With so must history shrouded in mystery, it is hard to sort through fact and fiction. One thing is for certain, though; every cocktail bar in the world has these folks to thank. 

Mixing It All Together

From the taverns of New Orleans to the streets of foggy London town, the origins of the cocktail are that of a curious nature. 

The origin ofthe cocktail is a mysterious one that will be told for years to come across taverns and bars worldwide. Knowing where these timeless drinks come from keeps the rich history alive for younger generations.

So, whether you are mixing a new concoction at home or drinking a newly invented libation at your favorite haunt, always remember, this drink could go down in history.

For more fun reads like this one, check out our other posts on our blog page!