The History Of Cocktails: What Is It With Gender And Drinks?
Imagine you are at a restaurant having a nice dinner out with a couple. The boyfriend orders a sirloin steak and a Caesar salad. Once the waiter arrives, he gives the steak to him and the salad to you. Does this sound familiar?
Now think about a nice bar. You go there after dinner. You ask for a beer and a Piña Colada. Who gets the cocktail? Him or you?
In both scenarios, the server could have asked. But it doesn’t happen that much, does it?
Do women have the sweeter tooth?
I have been concerned about those cocktails for a while. It is a common misconception that men prefer beer and stronger, mixed drinks. On the contrary, women enjoy sweeter, fruitier ones. Why is it so? I kept asking myself.
It is a known fact that women process alcohol differently than men. But both mixed drinks and cocktails carry distillates. On the other hand, a behavioral psychologist, Lisa A. Eckel, proposed that the female hormone estradiol possibly promotes desires for sweets.
I am a woman, and I don’t crave sweets. Moreover, I like beer, so I would rarely go for a cocktail. But I come from a beer country. Everyone drinks beer here. And though it is bitter, it actually contains a lot of carbs. Maybe we just crave carbs, not sugars.
It made me think about the U.K., where I worked as a full-time bartender in a pub for two years. There, not often would ladies drink beer. They would drink pink gin and lemonade or Porn star martini, both of which are sugary drinks with excessive flavoring. Could likes for those be cultural? I wondered.
Yes, they could, according to Dr. Julia Hormes. She suggests that American women are attributed cravings for sweet food whereas men prefer savory only because of advertisement. Who is the protagonist in a fast-food commercial? That’s right, a fearless man, while a neat lady relishes chocolate. And so they would report this in a questionnaire. Only 15% of American men crave chocolate, whereas 40% of women do indeed fancy it.
However, based on a study conducted in Spain, women don’t crave chocolate as much. An Egyptian report even noted that both men and women only crave savory food. Can it really be a cultural matter, then?
Anyway, I remember I was always offered a sweeter drink when I was in Spain. I had no choice but to search the history.
What were the first cocktails like?
The first cocktail as well as the word itself are surrounded by mystery. A cocktail is commonly considered an American invention, even though it was probably inspired by British punches, bowls of spirits usually mixed with fruit juices and spices. They used to be consumed in punch houses already during the 18th century.
The term cocktail appeared for the first time in the British newspaper The Morning Post and Gazetteer in 1798 on a politician’s tab in a pub on Downing Street. Later on, a mention was found in an American diary in The Farmer’s Cabinet in 1803, where a man has a hangover and drinks a cocktail to cure it.
Nevertheless, the word was first defined in an editorial response in The Balance and Columbian Repository of 1806. It read: ‘Cocktail is a stimulating liquor, composed of spirits of any kind, sugar, water, and bitters.’
In 1862, Jerry Thomas introduced the first cocktail book ever written — How to Mix Drinks or the Bon Vivant’s Companion.
The world’s oldest cocktail is probably the Sazerac, made from the Sazerac Brandy, sugar, bitters, and a dash of absinthe, decorated with a lemon twist. It was also sold pre-bottled for medical purposes in pharmacies.
It is not certainly known who the creator was. However, Sazerac is often attributed to Antonine Amédée Peychaud, a druggist from New Orleans. He would use his own bitters and serve the drink in a glass called coquetier (very similar to cocktail), the legend holds.
It seems that the first world’s cocktail was somewhat bitter, so where do the sweet cocktails come from?
Have you heard of the Tiki culture? This quirky bar tradition appeared in the 1930s in the United States. It was inspired by traders who traveled to the Pacific and Polynesia. The tiki venues, such as the famous Don the Beachcomber in Hollywood or Trader Vic’s in San Francisco, were kitschily decorated with colorful flowers and served exotic drinks. The popular Mai Tai, for example, emerged in this era.
After a row of Old Fashioned, Martinis, and Manhattans popularized by Mad Man, American bartender Dale DeGroff revived the classic Jerry Thomas’ cocktail culture in the 1990s. Sour mix, prefab-bottled cocktails, and shooters rose once again. They were followed by the mixology renaissance, which we know as the cocktail culture of today.
The fact that women prefer cocktails is just a stereotype, then. Moreover, there is knowledge, creativity, and variety in modern mixology. Sweet, bitter, sour fruity, or floral. No matter who you are, there is the right drink for everyone.