the word cocktails

why are drinks called cocktails and not just drinks?

snippy mode engaged

bshannon, meet Dictonary. Dictonary, bshannon.

snippy mode offline

1 a : an iced drink of wine or distilled liquor mixed with flavoring ingredients b : something resembling or suggesting such a drink c : a solution of agents taken or used together especially for medical treatment or diagnosis
2 : an appetizer served as a first course at a meal

I think our friend was actually wondering about the origin of the word cocktail.

I don’t know myself. I have heard a story bout the origin of the word “highball”


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C’mon, Al, that’s not answering the question! The Cocktail is an alcoholic drink which is primarily booze, iced or no, like the martini or the manhattan. As opposed to the Highball, which is booze mixed with a nonalcoholic leavener: soda, tonic, water. The Cocktail is served in a stemmed glass to maintain the chill, the Highball in a, well, highball glass (tumbler).

The Highball got its name from the taverns which lay along stagecoach routes, which raised a ball as a signal for the coach to stop and pick up mail. When the “highball” was showing, the driver would make the stop and the passengers could run in for a quick one.

The Cocktail got its name…Oh, hell. I left all my liquor reference works in my other pants, and all I can remember is a lame theory that bartenders used to stir 'em with tailfeathers from the barnyard, which is patently ridiculous.

–Uke, neatly passing the ball to the next in line.

Maybe the cock tail was the early version of the little drink umbrellas!


And can it be that in a world so full and busy, the loss
of one weak creature makes a void in any heart, so
wide and deep that nothing but the width and depth
of vast eternity can fill it up!
-Charles Dickens “Dombey and Son”

nice definition,Alpha, but why are they called “cocktails”?
Cocktail The New York World, 1891, tells us that this is an Aztec word,
and that “the liquor was discovered by a Toltec noble, who sent it to
the king by the hand of his daughter Xochitl. The king fell in love with
the maiden, drank the liquor, and called them oxc-tl, a name perpetuated
by the word cocktail.
(hmmm and I got some gas well options I,d like to talk to you about)
THE DICTIONARY OF PHRASE AND FABLE BY E. COBHAM BREWER
FROM THE NEW AND ENLARGED EDITION OF 1894
http://www.bibliomania.com/Reference/PhraseAndFable/index.html

Etymology: probably from cock + tail
Merriam-Webster OnLine


(that helps alot)

Here’s a great dictionary page http://www.onelook.com/

This is what I found on an etymology page:

Perhaps H.L. Mencken said it best, “the cocktail to multitudes of foreigners, seems to be the greatest of all the contributions of the American way of life to the salvation of humanity, but there remains a good deal of uncertainty about the etymology of its name and even some doubt that the thing itself is of American origin.”

Cocktail is one of those words with innumerable stories about its origin, none of which have any substantial evidence behind them. Mencken lists seven distinct stories about its origin.

The first is that it is derived from the French coquetier, or egg-cup. According to this story, the cocktail was invented in New Orleans, circa 1795, by Antoine Amédée Peychaud, an apothecary from Santo Domingo. Peychaud, who is famous as the inventor Peychaud bitters, held social gatherings for fellow Masons at his pharmacy at 437 rue Royale. He would serve brandy toddies to which he would add his own mixture of bitters and would serve in an egg-cup. The drink acquired the name of the cup, but English speaking guests would call it a cocktay, which eventually became the cocktail. The specificity of the details and Peychaud’s renown as a mixologist lend credence to this explanation, but there is no definite evidence to support it.

The second explanation is one that does not favor an American origin. In this one, the word derives from the French coquetel, a drink known in the Bordeaux region for several centuries. The drink, and its name, were introduced to America by French officers during the American Revolution.

Another is that it is derived from cock-ale, a drink popular in England in the 17th and 18th centuries. To a cask of new ale was added a sack containing an old rooster, mashed to a pulp, raisins, mace, and cloves, and the mixture was allowed to infuse for a week or so.

The fourth explanation given by Mencken is that it comes from cock-bread-ale, a mixture of stale bread, ale, and bitters that was fed to fighting cocks, and often taken by their handlers as well.

The fifth is that it is so called because it is a drink that will “cock your tail.”

The sixth story is that it comes from cocktailings. The dregs of various casks would be drained out of the cocks, or valves, mixed together and sold as a cheap drink.

Mencken’s final explanation is that it came from the practice of toasting the victor in a cockfight. Into the drinks would be inserted a number of feathers corresponding to the number of feathers left in the cock’s tail.

Radford gives yet another explanation, although this one is certainly false. Long ago, an Aztec noble, in an attempt to curry favor, sent the emperor a drink by the hand of his daughter, Xochitl. The emperor liked the drink so much that he married the daughter and named the concoction after her. The term was introduced to the United States by soldiers returning from the Mexican War. A great story, but alas the OED2 has cites of cocktail in use as early as 1806, some forty years before the Mexican War.


To deal with men by force is as impractical as to deal with nature by persuasion.

Well sue me for taking the question for what it’s worth.

I saw the question as “What makes a drink a cocktail?” hence the “…and not just drinks” part. The etymology is a much more interesting question, but not the one asked, IMHO.

So nyaaah.

yum yum pulped fermented rooster. gimme a double.

Early imbibers of alcohol were generally male. Upon indulging in sufficent libation, they were prone to telling fanciful stories about their sexual prowess and would boast about their penis size.
Hence Cock tales. See also Tall tales.

Nyaaah yourself. He asked why drinks were CALLED cocktails. Disregarding my earlier elegant post and the subsequent charming Mencken quotes, I’ll add that anything you swaller down during the “Cocktail Hour” becomes a cocktail, whether it’s a Sidecar, a Scotch and soda, a cask of Amontillado, a Dr. Pepper, or a sixpack of Miller High Life.


Uke