Any quick search online will give you dozens of pages telling you that the earliest known definition of the word cocktail appeared in a Hudson, New York newspaper, The Balance and Columbian Repository, in 1806. The definition was supplied in response to a reader’s inquiry about a post from the previous week of a political candidate’s drinks bill. Here is the bill, which says (in case you can’t see it well): “Rum! Rum! Rum! It is conjectured, that the price of this precious liquor will soon rise at Claverack, since a certain candidate has placed in his account of Loss and Gain, the following items:–
17 brandy do.
411 glasses bitters
25 do. cock-tail
(I assume ‘do.’ is an abbreviation for some sort of liquid measurement but I’ll be damned if I can find out what exactly it is.)
The reader’s letter is hilarious, as is the response, which often gets stripped of it’s political commentary. Here it is in full:
“…Cock-tail, then is a stimulating liquor, composed of spirits of any kind, sugar, water, and bitters—it is vulgarly called bittered sling, and is supposed to be an excellent electioneering potion, inasmuch as it renders the heart stout and bold, at the same time that it fuddles the head. It is said also, to be of great use to a democratic candidate: because, a person having swallowed a glass of it, is ready to swallow any thing else.”
These days the basic cocktail recipe appears to be the Old-Fashioned, the standard being made with bourbon or rye whisky. I admit to disliking bourbon in a big way (sorry bourbon fans), and haven’t yet tried a rye so today’s cocktail is made with the French brandy I keep on hand for my original favorite cocktail, the Sidecar. I’m calling this mixture an Electioneer in honor of our current campaign season and with a nod to France’s national motto, Liberté, égalité, fraternité.
Friends, are you feeling overwhelmed, frustrated, disgusted and perhaps bitter about the whole charade that is American politics? Well stir up one of these babies, sit back and enjoy the ride:
Electioneer (aka Brandy Old-Fashioned)
2 oz VSOP French brandy
1 sugar cube or 1 tsp sugar
2 dashes Scrappy’s aromatic bitters
2 dashes Scrappy’s orange bitters
Method: In a mixing glass place sugar and bitters and muddle until well mixed. Add some ice and the brandy and stir for 20 seconds or so until everything is well-mixed. Pour over a large ice ball or cube and garnish with a twist of orange peel.