Each year on May 13, cocktail enthusiasts around the world celebrate the birth of the cocktail—acknowledged annually on the day that the word “cocktail” first appeared in print.
Since 2006—the 200th anniversary of the cocktail’s first appearance—World Cocktail Day has also coincided with the final day of World Cocktail Week. Created by The Museum of the American Cocktail, this annual celebration acknowledges the meteoric rise of flavorful, quality cocktails in popular culture, and is dedicated to “promoting an appreciation for the craft and culture of the cocktail.”
So… how did it all begin?
The beginning of the 18th century was an exciting time. Smallpox was on its way out, electric batteries were on their way in, and bar owners were beginning to experiment with alcoholic alchemy. In some circles, these boozy new concoctions were gaining traction, and customers began requesting “bittered slings” and “cock-tails.”
According to popular legend, on May 13, 1806, the term “cocktail” first appeared in an American newspaper. After losing an election in New York, a weary politician wrote a satirical accounting of his campaign’s gains and losses for the Hudson newspaper The Balance, and Columbian Repository. His tally of losses included 720 rum-grogs, 32 gin-slings, 411 glasses bitters, and 25 dozen cock-tails.
A reader, unfamiliar with this new term, wrote to the newspaper’s editor, inquiring “Will you be so obliging as to inform me what is meant by this species of refreshment? I have heard of a phlegm-cutter and fog driver, of wetting the whistle, of moistening the clay, of a fillip, a spur in the head, quenching a spark in the throat, of flip & c, but never in my life, though have lived a good many years, did I hear of cock tail before.”
Harry Croswell, The Balance’s editor, responded that a cocktail is “…a stimulating liquor, composed of spirits of any kind, sugar, water, and bitters…” And thus the cocktail was formally defined.
While cocktails have come a long way since 1806, the basic elements remain unchanged. And thus, on May 13 each year, alcohol aficionados commemorate the recipe that forever changed the liquid landscape on World Cocktail Day.
We’ll certainly raise our glasses to that!
World Cocktail Day is typically celebrated