13 May

Old Fashioned Cocktail (Difford's recipe) image

Today is World Cocktail Day

So we are drinking a...

Old Fashioned Cocktail (Difford's recipe)

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Today is a special day for any cocktail geek: World Cocktail Day.

On this day in 1806, The Balance and Columbian Repository, an upstate New York newspaper, published the first known definition of the word "cock-tail", in response to a reader's query on an article. For a long time it was cocktail lore that The Balance could also claim the first printed use of the word. Yet at least two earlier occurrences are known to exist, the first in London's Morning Post and Gazetteer (1798), in a satirical comment on the then-Prime Minister, William Pitt, and a second in a US agricultural handbook called The Farmer's Cabinet (1803).

Where did the word come from? Well, the Oxford English Dictionary tells us that the original use of 'cocktail' was to describe a horse with a tail like a cock's - that is to say, a docked tail, which stuck up, rather than hanging down. That came to mean a racehorse that was mixed - not thoroughbred. It's likely that it's this sense of 'cocktail' that came to mean a mixed or an 'adulterated' drink.

Whatever the truth of the matter, we are marking today with an Old-Fashioned, a style of cocktail that most closely matches The Balance's famous description of it as "a stimulating liquor, composed of spirits of any kind, sugar, water and bitters." Enjoy.

Today is also the anniversary of the opening of Harry's Bar in Venice, one of the oldest cocktail bars in the world. Quite a few celebrated barflies have passed through Harry's Bar in its time: Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Dorothy Parker and more.

With its very quirky and rather strict, old-fashioned service, Harry's continues as a place of pilgrimage for drinks aficionados passing through Venice. Opened on this day in 1931 by Giuseppe Cipriani, Harry's is the home of one of the most famous cocktails of all time, the Bellini, and that's why we'll be drinking our take on that famous drink today.

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