Cocktail Timeline

From Chanticleer Society
Revision as of 17:11, 6 March 2019 by DrinkBoy (talk | contribs) (1919)
There may be WAY too much information to handle in this fashion, but we may not know unless we try.
The timeline should be broken down into individual "Eras". If this list gets too top-heavy, we can split each era into their own page.

The following detail the major milestones in cocktail history.

Pre-Dawn (before 1800)

It was in the decades and centuries prior to 1800 that the artform of the Mixed Drink was evolving. Instead of recipes for individual drinks, the pattern was to created mixed drink "categories".

Dawn of the Cocktail (1800 to 1860)

The cocktail comes onto the scene in the beginning of the 1800's and very gradually begins to get noticed. The concept of "mixed drink categories" was still prevalent, but over time would loose its luster.


May 6, 1806, "The Balance & Columbian Repository" provides one of the first mentions of the "cock-tail"[1].

May 13, 1806, In response to a readers letter, the editor of "The Balance & Columbian Repository" provides the first known definition of the "cock-tail" as "Cock tail, then in a stimulating liquor, composed of spirits of any kind, sugar, water and bitters"[1].

Golden Age (1860 to 1920)

Entering into this era, the cocktail is still just "yet another" mixed drink category, which isn't necessarily seen as being any more important than the others, but that changes quickly. By the end of this time the cocktail is king, to the point of becoming an umbrella category that incorporates many other mixed drink types.


"The Bar-Tenders Guide" by Jerry Thomas is published and becomes the first recipe book for bartenders[2].


"Recipes for Mixed Drinks" is published by Hugo R. Ensslin.[3][4]

December 18, 1917: The 18th Amendment, which would lead to prohibition, was proposed in the US Senate.


Sometime during the year 1919, or perhaps early 1920, the "Negroni" cocktail was invented when Cammillo Luigi Manfredo Maria Negroni (reportedly a Count) asked Fosco Scarselli, barman at the Cafe Casoni to "fortify" his regular Americano with some gin. There is a letter from October 13, 1920 written to Count Camillo (at some point he dropped the second "m" in his name) from Frances Harper of Chelsea, London:

"You say you can drink, smoke, & I am sure laugh, just as much as ever. I feel you are not much to be pitied! You must not take more than 20 Negronis in one day!"[5]

January 16, 1919: The 18th Amendment is certified as ratified, and will go into effect in one year. Many states by this time had already instituted their own version of prohibition locally.

October 28, 1919: The "Volstead Act" is passed by congress, overriding President Woodrow Wilson's veto. It establishes a definition of intoxicating liquor and provides enforcement of Prohibition.

Prohibition (1920 to 1933)

The "Great Cocktail Lobotomy" descends upon the US. During this decade the art and craft of the cocktail is all but forgotten.

Years of Indulgence (1934 to 1968)

With Prohibition over, the general public attempts to reestablish their pursuits of the well turned drink, but too much had been forgotten, and too many bad habits had been formed. The birth of Tiki almost reminds us of the craft of the cocktail, but it eventually becomes a façade of itself. Renewed interest in the Martini tries to remind us of what we had forgotten, but the Vodka Martini turns it into little more than an alcohol delivery vehicle.


Victor Bergeron creates the "Mai Tai". The original recipe was: 2 ounces 17-year-old J. Wray Nephew Jamaican rum, 1/2 ounce French Garnier Orgeat, 1/2 ounce Holland DeKuyper Orange Curacao, 1/4 ounce Rock Candy Syrup, juice from one fresh lime. Hand shake and garnish with half of the lime shell inside the drink and float a sprig of fresh mint at the edge of the glass.


A "Don the Beachcomber" opens up in Waikiki, bringing the "Polynesian" motif, back to... well... Polynesia. Before this time, all traces of the polynesian decor had been effectively exercised from the environment in the name of Progress and Christianity.


Popular drinks during this time:

  • Manhattan (favored by both men and women)
  • Martini (favored by men)
  • Daiquiri (favored by women)
  • Whiskey Sour
  • Old-Fashioned
  • Tom Collins
  • Bacardi
  • Cuba Libre
  • Alexander
  • Stinger
  • B&B
  • Sidecar
  • Rob Roy
  • Gin Rickey
  • Creme de Menthe Frappe
  • Gin Fizz
  • Dubonnet

(the above is a partial list from "The Bartenders Book" by Jack Townsend, published in 1951. This list was arrived at by sending a detailed survey to bartenders across the US and Canada)

The Dark Ages (1969-1989)

The cocktail turns comical. Many eschew cocktails since they see them as "what their parents used to drink", and those who eventually do partake, favor the syrupy sweet beverages which remind them of their childhood.

Age of Rediscovery (1990-2000)

The decade leading up to 2000 saw a slowly growing interest in rediscovering the cocktail. There was a small, but dedicated group of individuals who began to dig into the long forgotten cocktailian craft as it existed prior to Prohibition and would set the stage for giving the cocktail a greater exposure.


January, 1998: is launched by Robert Hess [6].


August, 1999: The DrinkBoy forum is created by Robert Hess on MSN Groups

Cocktail Revival (2000 to Present)


January 1, 2000: Milk & Honey opens in New York[7]. The bar was created by Sasha Petraske and despite its hidden location, and its "reservations only" requirement, it gained popularity amongst cocktail enthusiasts and soon-to-be craft bartenders.


March 3, 2003: "A Tribute to Professor Jerry Thomas" at the Plaza Hotel in New York. Featuring Jerry Thomas cocktails served by Dale DeGroff, Ted Haigh, Robert Hess, George Papadakis, Sasha Petraske, Gary Regan, Audrey Saunders, and David Wondrich. Presented in cooperation with Slow Food NYC[8][9].

September, 2003: Tales of the Cocktail was founded as an annual event in New Orleans by Ann Tuennerman. The previous year, Ann hosted the "New Orleans Original Cocktail Tour" which provided a tour through historic New Orleans bars[10].


October, 2004: The Museum of the American Cocktail is founded by Dale DeGroff, Jill DeGroff, Robert Hess, Philip Greene, Ted Haigh, Anistatia Miller, Jared Brown, Chris McMillian, Laura McMillian[11].


August 29, 2005: The Pegu Club cocktail lounge opens in New York[12]. The Pegu Club, the brainchild of Audrey Saunders, ushered in craft cocktails to New York for the general public.


  1. 1.0 1.1 The Origin of the Cocktail, Ted Haigh (Imbibe)
  2. The Bar-Tenders Guide (EUVS Library)
  3. The Most Influential Cocktail Book To Date, Jason Wilson (The Washington Post)
  4. Recipes for Mixed Drinks (EUVS Library)
  5. Luca Picchi, "Sulle tracce del conte. La vera storia del cocktail Negroni" (“On the Trail of the Count, The True Story of the Negroni Cocktail”), 2006
  6. The Journey Begins, Robert Hess (
  7. Milk & Honey New York website
  8. A Tribute To Jerry Thomas, Robert Hess (
  9. Shaken, Stirred or Mixed, The Gilded Age Lives Again, William Grimes (New York Times)
  10. Tales of the Cocktail (Wikipedia)
  11. The Museum of the American Cocktail (Wikipedia)
  12. The Pegu Club, Frank Bruni (New York Times)