History of the Cocktail

16 November 2015Ivar de Lange

History of the Cocktail

Although mixed drinks called punch were being made as far back as the 1500s, most people date the invention of the cocktail to the 1800s. The word 'cocktail' was first published in a newspaper in 1806.

The origin

There are many theories about the origin of the word, but the strongest claim is that it is derived from the French word 'coquetier', which  refers to an eggcup type measure. Apothecaries used these measures to dispense alcoholic 'tonics' in New Orleans. It’s only a small step from 'coquetier' to 'cocktail', especially after you’ve had a few!

The father of bartending

The accredited father of bartending was Professor Jeremiah 'Jerry' Thomas, a native of Westchester, New York. He led the life of a celebrity in his heyday in the mid-1800s, bartending and running bars in New York, St. Louis and San Francisco. He also toured the US and Europe with a travelling bartending show, during which he made signature cocktails like the flaming Blue Blazer.

Thomas is best remembered for publishing the world’s first cocktail and bartending book, The Bartender’s Guide to mixing drinks, in 1862, which is still a standard reference work today. The recipes contained within its pages are still used all over the world, such as the famous Collins


Recent research has shown that 6 times more Genever was imported into the US than gin during that time. Thomas’ biographer David Wondrich also confirms that recipes made with (Dutch) Gin were meant to be made with Genever, since Genever was one of the 4 main cocktail ingredients and was often (mistakenly) called Gin at the time. Genever gives its cocktails a smooth and characteristic depth and allows classic cocktails such as the famous The Holland House cocktail to be recreated perfectly.

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Ivar de Lange

Ivar de Lange

Ivar de Lange is our Master Bartender and manager of the Bols Academy. He has over 21 years of bartending experience and loves to write about anything cocktail.

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