cocktail
cmy440
What is the origin of cocktail in the description of drinks?
Lewis Joplin II
The theory I've heard is that there once was a drink that was actually garnished with (instead of a paper umbrella) a feather. According to one of my references, there are around 50 theories about this word's origin:

COCKTAIL -- "The origins of the word 'cocktail' are mysterious. It first appeared (in America) in the first decade of the 19th century, roughly contemporary with 'cocktail' meaning 'horse with a cocked tail' -- that is, one cut short and so made to stick up like a cock's tail -- but whether the two words are connected, and if so, how the drink came to be named after such a horse, are not at all clear." From the "Dictionary of Word Origins" by John Ayto (Arcade Publishing, New York, 1990).

Another source agrees that there are several possible origins including one about "...the beautiful Aztec princess, Octel. She got tired of eating from golden dishes, so she scrounged around and found a drinking vessel made of glass. Beverages poured into her glass varied in color, and she mixed the ingredients to watch the swirling of liquid in the glass. That is why Octel gave her name to the cocktail. Shallow your drink -- not the yarn! Mixed drinks may be as old as mankind, but our title for them is modern. It is odd that at least fifty explanations for it have been offered. One of the best is from England, where the docked-tail of a horse was called a cock-tail..." ): "Why You Say it" by Webb Garrison (Rutledge Hill Press, Nashville, Tenn., 1992).

Mr. and Mrs. Morris say, "Over the years we have collected and reported many versions of the origin of 'cocktail.' Our own favorite is that it is a version of the French word 'coquetel' and was first popularized as 'cocktail' by Antoine Peychaud, a New Orleans restaurateur, who also created Peychaud's bitters. But there are almost as many theories of the origin of 'cocktail' as there are varieties of cocktail - and there's always room for one more. Russell Guinn of Culpeper, Virginia, has been researching the question in the musty files of the 'Culpeper Exponent.' Under the date October 7, 1898, he found this report: 'The cocktail was the invention of Col. Carter of Culpeper Court House, Va. Many years ago in that locality there was a wayside inn named 'The Cock and Bottle,' the semblance of an old English tavern. It bore on its swinging sign a cock and bottle, meaning that draft and bottled ale could be had within - a 'cock' in the old vernacular meaning a tap. He who got the last and muddy portion of the tap was said to have received the 'cocktail.' Upon one occasion, when Col. Carter was subjected to the indignity of having this muddy beverage put before him, he threw it angrily upon the floor and exclaimed: 'Hereafter I will drink cocktails of my own brewing.' Then and there, inspired evidently by the spirit of Ganymede, he dashed together bitters, sugar, the oil of lemon peel and some Old Holland gin, and then and there was the first cocktail concocted.''..."From the "Morris Dictionary of Word and Phrase Origins" by William and Mary Morris (HarperCollins, New York, 1977, 1988).


Also:

Shamroq57
We want to know the origin of the word "cocktail".
AdSumADS
It started in America a couple centuries ago and referred to a horse with its tail cut short (resembling that of a cock). It came to refer to a mixed a drink at about the same time, but the connections there are rather murky. One commonly told one is that a feather a feather was used to decorate the glass. Other's get really bizarre. I favor one that holds that a particular bar/pub, named in traditional British fasion, "Cock & Tail," lent its own name.
Lewis Joplin II
"Dictionary of Word Origins" by John Ayto (Arcade Publishing, New York, 1990): "The origins of the word 'cocktail' are mysterious. It first appeared (in America)in the first decade of the 19th century, roughly contemporary with 'cocktail' meaning 'horse with a cocked tail' -- that is, one cut short and so made to stick up like a cock's tail -- but whether the two words are connected, and if so, how the drink came to be named after such a horse, are not at all clear."

"Why You Say it" by Webb Garrison (Rutledge Hill Press, Nashville, Tenn., 1992): Mr. Garrison agrees that there are several possible origins including one about "...the beautiful Aztec princess, Octel. She got tired of eating from golden dishes, so she scrounged around and found a drinking vessel made of glass. Beverages poured into her glass varied in color, and she mixed the ingredients to watch the swirling of liquid in the glass. That is why Octel gave her name to the cocktail. Shallow your drink -- not the yarn! Mixed drinks may be as old as mankind, but our title for them is modern. It is odd that at least fifty explanations for it have been offered. One of the best is from England, where the docked-tail of a horse was called a cock-tail..."

AdSumADS
The Morris Dictionary relates that "cock" referred to a tap and that the cock's tail were the dregs at the end of a barrel as it ran out. The anecdote goes that, on one occasion, a patron invented a mixed drink, a Ganymede, rather than drinking this residue.
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