May 13th is World Cocktail Day and marks the end of World Cocktail Week. Why this week? Well, the answer to that is that it is a celebration of the first time that the definition of the cocktail was put into printed material giving us the first official historical record of the "cocktail." It appeared in The Balance and Columbian Repository on this date in 1806 and read:
"Cocktail is a stimulating liquor, composed of spirits of any kind, sugar, water, and bitters."
It is pretty obvious that many mixed drinks created in the last part of the 20th century did not follow this formula, too many were simply too sweet - think Friar Tuck, Pink Squirrel, and others of the "Cocktail" movie era during which I am now grateful I was too young to drink. However, we have (thankfully) evolved beyond that for the most part and are once again celebrating balance of flavor in our cocktails.
That 1806 definition is similar to the basic outline that many of today's best mixologists subscribe to when they begin working out the idea for a new cocktail. I've recently heard a variation of that formula from both Tony Abou-Ganim and Bobby Gleason and you will hear and read it again and again as you study the craft. It has been updated in the last 200 years to be along the lines of: spirit, sweet, sour, bitter. In other words, a mixture of flavors that come into balance with one another.
Back to World Cocktail Day... The fine folks at The Museum of the American Cocktail are behind this "holiday" and if you check out their website (http://www.museumoftheamericancocktail.org/WCD/) you will find events to celebrate including, most importantly, one at the museum to raise funds for its great programs.
Here are a few other events I have happened across this week (though WCW "officially" ends on the 13th, there is more going on this weekend to continue the celebration). If you know of other special events, please pass them along in the comments...
- H. Joseph Ehrmann announced on his blog, Behind My Mahogany, today that they are mixing Pisco Punch all day at Elixir in San Fransisco.
- Saturday the 15th, Tales of the Cocktail is sponsoring Bartending by the Book at The Roosevelt... see more on the TOTC homepage.
- Of course, the Manhattan Cocktail Classic begins on Friday.
As an introduction to the cocktail you may want to read...
- What is the History of the Cocktail?
- 10 Classic Cocktails to Try
- 10 Whiskey Cocktails to Try
- 5 Steps to Better Cocktails