№1 Cocktail Origins


The EPIA provides food for pleasurable thought

The EPIA has initiated a series of interviews that we call “Freeze Frame” with the purpose of shining light on the history of the ice industry in Europe and how our members are continuing to evolve this industry.  I recently saw a reposting from one of our members, Polly Marr of The Ice Company, and thought it interesting.  One of the many uses of packaged ice is to chill and keep mixed drinks cold.  After reading the article, a thought came to mind – Why not do something like this for the EPIA?  We should promote interest on how to use ice to make our customer’s lives more pleasant.  One way is to chill their favorite beverage and at the same time, provide some history of this pleasantry.  To personalize this for the EPIA members, why not regionalize the concept.  What are the favorite cocktails in the many diverse areas of our membership community?  I recall many times when I imbibed with an Aperol Spritz in Italy after inquiring what that orange colored drink was and what did it taste like?  Remember the ice bar in Wroclaw, Poland?  Shots of local flavored Vodka – a regional favorite that quickly became a fond memory to always remind me of that convention drinking Weislaw’s provided Vodka from tiny ice shots.

And to take this another step further – what about the shapes of ice in different regions of Europe?  Why are large round cylinders of ice the standard in southern Spain?  What other regional idiosyncrasies do we find in our trading areas?  We have a very large store of knowledge and should share this with all our members.  If each one of us thinks about something related to packaged ice that is unique to his or her specific region or even something unusual or unique found while visiting another region and then shares this with our members, we can greatly expand the pleasantries of using packaged ice to make each of our lives more enjoyable and filled with fun.  Oh, our customers might also find they need more packaged ice to make those cocktails even more enjoyable!

Bartender’s associations such as the International Bartenders Association has members representing 58 countries, including all countries represented in the EPIA.  Their association describes 30 “unforgettable”, 31 “contemporary classics”, and 16 “new era” cocktails in their official list of cocktails.  This is nice background for imagining the enjoyment of consuming one or more while sitting in the perfect environment for such a pleasure.  But, where and when did these concoctions come from?  Where did each originate… and why?  What are the stories behind each drink?

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, a cocktail is an alcoholic mixed drink that contains three or more ingredients – at least one of the ingredients must be a spirit, one sweet/sugary and one sour/bitter.  If we use this definition as the definitive rule to qualify a drink as a “cocktail”, there must be thousands of these concoctions – some delicious, others undrinkable!  So where did some of these originate and what interesting stories go with their development?

One researcher attributes the word cocktail to an article in The Morning Post and Gazetteer in London, England on March 20, 1798.  However, common sense dictates that cocktails cannot be only attributed to the recent past.  According to the web version of the Encylopædia Britannica,

“The Chinese were distilling a beverage from rice beer by 800 bc, and arrack was distilled in the East Indies from sugarcane and rice.  The Arabs developed a distillation method that was used to produce a distilled beverage from wine.  Greek philosophers reported a crude distillation method.  The Romans apparently produced distilled beverages, although no references concerning them are found in writings before ad 100.  Production of distilled spirits was reported in Britain before the Roman conquest.  Spain, France, and the rest of Western Europe probably produced distilled spirits at an earlier date, but production was apparently limited until the 8th century, after contact with the Arabs.” 

In keeping with our earlier agreement on the definition of the word cocktail requiring “three or more ingredients – at least one of the ingredients must be a spirit” then for more than 2,000 years during the time when spirits have been used, people must have been blending what they drank to make something vile less vile and more palatable. 

There are some interesting bits of trivia picked up from published articles, Wikipedia, and postings on the web that talk about the origins of some of the cocktails that have grown in popularity during our recent past.  These bits of trivia come from people just like you and me.  What are your experiences with cocktails?

One of the most widely known cocktails still popular today is the Bloody Mary.  It has been said to be one of the most complex cocktails that is known and is consumed throughout the world.  It must contain the two main ingredients, vodka and tomato juice.  Then the fun begins by adding ingredients such as Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco sauce, beef consommé, horseradish, celery, olives, salt, celery salt, black pepper, cayenne pepper, and lemon juice.  Oh and don’t forget the piece-de-resistance – a stalk of celery.  No wonder it is called complex and taste a little different each time it is mixed.  And where do you think the name came from?  Both the origin of the first mixing and the naming have so many claims, it is difficult to agree on which the real one is.  But then think of when it is most ordered – the morning after staying up late imbibing on other cocktails, wine, and beer – no wonder the original location and naming cannot be remembered accurately.

OK EPIA members, what are your preferences for cocktails and what specialties do you have in your home regions?  We could have some discussions and a presentation of your offerings at the convention in Palermo in October.  Please share your experiences and send them to Stan Williams at fairtrade@cox.net.