The first known definition of the cock-tail occurred on May 13, 1806 in The Balance and Columbian Repository. The news of the day was concerning a recent election in Claverack, New York. In the article there was a mention of the winning candidate's practice of swaying votes using cock-tails to "buy" votes. This practice was quite common in the day. In fact it is said that George Washington himself won many a vote using the practice.
Click here for the full story in The Balance.
In 1803 the actual first reference to the word Cocktail was used in a publication called the Farmer's Cabinet. It was referred to as being "excellent for the head." This publication did not go into a definition of the word. (17)
The invention of the cocktail has been claimed by many people and each has their story.
Click here for Drinkboy's research concerning of the origin of the cocktail.
The tales come from far and near, but many of them seem to have the use of bitters as the defining ingredient in common. Bitters used world-wide, they were alcoholic so it was only a matter of time before they found their way in the mix. It is likely the cocktail was simultaneously invented by many people, in many places, but by at least 1806.
Today the thought of the word cocktail brings to mind good times, getting together with friends, elegance, and laughter.
Happy birthday to the cocktail, have one this weekend in its honor!