On May 13th, 1806 someone wrote into a New York newspaper called The Balance with this query:
To the Editor of the Balance.
I observe in your paper of the 6th instant, in the account of a democratic candidate for a seat in the legislature, marked under the head of Loss, 25 do. cock-tail. Will you be so obliging as to inform me what is meant by this species of refreshment? Though a stranger to you, I believe, from your general character, you will not suppose this request to be impertinent.
I have heard of a forum, of phlegm-cutter and fog driver, of wetting the whistle, of moistening the clay, of a fillip, a spur in the head, quenching a spark in the throat, of flip & c, but never in my life, though have lived a good many years, did I hear of cock tail before. Is it peculiar to a part of this country? Or is it a late invention? Is the name expressive of the effect which the drink has on a particular part of the body? Or does it signify that the democrats who take the potion are turned topsycurvy, and have their heads where their tails should be? I should think the latter to be the real solution; but am unwilling to determine finally until I receive all the information in my power…
This strange question is one of the earliest known examples of the term “cock tail” being published in history… and it led to the very first explanation of what a “cock tail” actually is being published.
Today on HINDSIGHT, Tom and Matthew will talk and imbibe with resident Los Angeles barkeep D. Max Maxey of Cole’s in downtown Los Angeles (dating back to 1908, it is the city’s oldest public house and a nexus of local lore). The subject will be the saga and evolution of the uniquely American contraption known as the cocktail… which has a storied, often controversial history dating back over 200 years. It is the subject of much cultural interest and curiosity and is engrained into the very fabric of American development as much as Jazz, baseball or George Washington.
Max will also being providing some demonstrations of specific historic cocktails so that you can enjoy history in the comfort of your own home!