What are Cocktails?
This word is a very generic term used to define an alcoholic or non-alcoholic drink produced by proportionally mixing two ingredients. Clearly, in a global sense, this word includes an infinite number of recipes that all share the common feature of being prepared using a homogeneous solution of alcoholic or non-alcoholic elements. In order to prevent the misuse of the term and the continuous modification of well-known recipes, the International Bartender Association (IBA) was founded in 1951. It is the most famous organisation for bartenders and every year it draws up and updates an official list, standardising recipes, quantities of ingredients and techniques.
Let's go into a little more detail; cocktail recipes can be of different types, but in general they are divided into:
- Alcoholic, which is the alcoholic base provided by distillates such as rum, vodka, gin, whisky, tequila and others.
- Flavouring elements, whose function is to add strong aromas and flavours, including liqueurs, bitters, spiced wines and so on.
- Colouring ingredients, usually non-alcoholic, which provide colourful shades, and include juices, syrups, angostura, creams, edible foods and others.
- Decorations, which refers to the small pieces of topping that are added at the end to provide a finishing touch. Among the most famous are slices of citrus fruit, green olives and red cherries.
Naturally, you don't need all these cocktail ingredients to create a drink, but simply to combine at least two preparations from the same category in a balanced way and with a certain rationale (for example, it doesn't make sense to mix two gins). The result must be a harmonious and calibrated combination that offers a unique fusion of flavours, fragrances and colours. It is not enough to simply select the raw materials required, as it is also necessary to master the art of mixology, understanding the characteristics, quality and choice of ingredients, preparation techniques and serving methods.
Etymology and Origin
It is difficult to say with certainty when the technique of mixing different liquids to create fragrant and intense drinks became widespread. It was probably already popular during Greek and Roman times, especially considering that wine was made with an infusion of resins and honey to create what was perhaps the ancestor of the modern cocktail.
What is even more mysterious is understanding the origin of the term, which over time has spawned several different and even amusing stories. The first theory is that it is a mispronunciation of the Latin 'acqua decocta', or water that has been boiled and then cooled. Another theory is based on the term 'coquetel', which was a cup used in Bordeaux to mix different liquids. The most widely accepted theory however, is that the word derives from the English words 'cock' and 'tail', recalling the brightly coloured plumage of the bird. This last hypothesis is backed up by old American tales which describe how, in the 1600s, during cockfights in taverns, the owner of the winning bird would toast his victory with drinks consisting of liqueurs and juices, and was given the feathers of the defeated rooster. Additionally, another legend suggests that the indigenous South Americans mixed liqueurs and juices with tools made from the 'rooster tail' plant.
The term officially came into use, however, on the 6th of May 1806, when an article was published in the pages of 'The Balance and Columbian Repository' newspaper, jokingly discussing politics and mentioning the expenses of a candidate who lost the election. A few days later, a reader, intrigued by the terminology, asked for clarification and the answer was "A cocktail is a stimulating liquor composed of all kinds of distillates, sugar, water and bitters".
During the American prohibition period, the market for these drinks reached its peak. In fact, during those long 14 years when alcohol consumption was prohibited, some bars, the famous Speakeasies, sold alcohol under the counter. During this period, in the absence of quality spirits and in order to camouflage the alcohol taste, several ingredients were mixed randomly, creating some of the most important cocktail preparations in the world, still made in lounge bars today.
Today, thanks in part to the establishment of theIBA in 1951, there are a wide range of different types of cocktails, all of which are recognised worldwide.
A basic classification could be the one provided by the IBA which includes Unforgettables, Contemporary Classics and New Era Drinks. The Unforgettables are the most traditional and represent the bartenders' starting point. The Contemporary Classics are the most popular and appreciated worldwide, while the New Era Drinks are the latest and trendiest ones.
Finally, the New Era Drinks are the more recent and trendy varieties.
A second type of classification, perhaps the most commonly used, is one that groups them into various categories according to the ideal period of consumption. These are:
- Pre-dinner drinks: the classic aperitifs that are accompanied by snacks and stimulate the appetite. The most famous are Spritz, Negroni, Americano, Rossini, and Bellini.
- After-dinner drinks: served at the end of a meal as a digestive. They are rather alcoholic and intensely aromatic, such as Black Russian, Alexander, and Daiquiri.
- Long-drinks: thirst-quenching and colourful, usually shaken and made from tropical and freshly squeezed juices, with decorations and plenty of ice. These include the Mojito, Sex on the Beach, Moscow Mule, Pina Colada, Tequila Sunrise and many others.
This classification is unofficial, so feel free to drink them whenever you please!
Other distinctions can be made based on the type of glass used or the amount of alcohol present.
On Callmewine you can find Vodka, Rum, Tequila and many other distillates for sale online. Choose your favourite cocktail mixing kit complete with ingredients and create your favourite drinks in the comfort of your own home.