In the nightclub Porta Bar Mykonos our mixologists are on the constant search for innovative fusions and creative mixology of fresh ingredients made from a vast selection of fruit, herbs and spices from all over the world combined with premium spirits.

Where Did the Name “Cocktail” Originate?

There are as many stories behind the origin of the name cocktail as there are behind the creation of the first Margarita or the Martini.

  • A popular story behind the cocktail name refers to a rooster’s tail (or cock tail) being used as a Colonial drink garnish. There are no formal references in written recipes to such a garnish.
  • In the story in The Spy (James Fenimore Cooper, 1821) the character “Betty Flanagan” invented the cocktail during the Revolution. “Betty” may have referred to a real-life innkeeper at Four Corners north of New York City by the name of Catherine “Kitty” Hustler. Betty took on another non-fiction face, that of Betsy Flanagan. Betsy was likely not a real woman, but the story says she was a tavern keeper who served French soldiers a drink in 1779 garnished with tail feathers of her neighbor’s rooster. We can assume that Kitty inspired Betty and Betty inspired Betsy, but whether or not one of the three are responsible for the cocktail is a mystery.
  • The rooster theory is also said to have been influenced by the colors of the mixed ingredients, which may resemble the colors of the cock’s tail. This would be a good tale today given our colorful array of ingredients, but at the time spirits were visually bland.
  • The British publication, Bartender, published a story in 1936 of English sailors, of decades before, being served mixed drinks in Mexico. The drinks were stirred with a Cola de Gallo (cock’s tail), a long root of similar shape to the bird’s tail.
  • Another Cocktail story refers to the leftovers of a cask of ale, called cock tailings. The cock tailings from various spirits would be mixed together and sold as a lower priced mixed beverage of (understandably) questionable integrity.
  • Yet another unappetizing origin tells of a cock ale, a mash of ale mixed with whatever was available to be fed to fighting cocks.
  • Cocktail may have derived from the French term for egg cup, coquetel . One story that brought this reference to America speaks of Antoine Amedie Peychaud of New Orleans who mixed his Peychaud bitters into a stomach remedy served in a coquetel. Not all of Peychaud’s customers could pronounce the word and it became known as cocktail. This story doesn’t add up, however, because of conflicting dates.
  • The word Cocktail may be a distant derivation of the name for the Aztec goddess, Xochitl [/SHO-cheetl/ meaning ‘flower’ in Nahuatl]. Xochitl was also the name of a Mexican princess who served drinks to American soldiers.
  • It was an 18th- and19th-century custom to dock draft horses’ tales. This caused the tales to stick up like a cocks tail. As the story goes, a reader’s letter to The Balance and Columbian Repository explains that when drunk, these cocktails made you cock your tail up in the same manner.
  • Another horse tail supposes the influence of a breeder’s term for a mix breed horse, or cock-tails. Both racing and drinking were popular among the majority of Americans at the time and it’s possible the term transferred from mixed breeds to mixed drinks.
  • There’s a quirky story of an American tavern keeper who stored alcohol in a ceramic, rooster-shaped container. When patrons wanted another round they tapped the rooster’s tail.
  • In George Bishop’s The Booze Reader: A Soggy Saga of Man in His Cups (1965) he says, “The word itself stems from the English cock-tail which, in the middle 1800’s, referred to a woman of easy virtue who was desirable but impure…and applied to the newly acquired American habit of bastardizing good British Gin with foreign matter, including ice.” Of all things, not ice!


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