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The Original Cocktail

Spirit, sugar, water, and bitters. 

Spirit, sugar, water, and bitters. 

By Camper English, contributor

January 7th, 2011


You know how you get a Daiquiri in your choice of raspberry, strawberry, or lime flavor, and how you can order a Ginger Vodka Mojito? The Daiquiri, Mojito, and many other drinks started out as a single beverage made with specific ingredients, but due to their popularity became a whole category of drink flavors. Today there are classicist movements within the cocktail community to bring back the original recipe Daiquiri (made without a blender), Mojito, and other drinks.

The word “cocktail” as we know it today denotes any mixed drink, but it too was once a single drink; or rather a single drink formula. A newspaper called The Balance and Columbian Repository  in 1806 wrote, “Cock tail, then is a stimulating liquor, composed of spirits of any kind, sugar, water and bitters.”

The major difference between a cocktail and other drinks of the time was the addition of bitters. Today the water in the drink comes in the form of ice, which wasn’t as common in drinks in 1806 as it is today. You could make a cocktail with any base spirit, and people did. 

The cocktail became popular and many spin-offs were developed as people replaced the sugar with liqueurs like absinthe or maraschino, and added garnish like lemon peel, mint, and berries. 

Soon enough, the classicists began ordering cocktails the old fashioned way: just sugar, water, spirit, and bitters. They called it The Old Fashioned.


1.5 fl. oz. Base Spirit (vodka, whiskey, tequila, etc.)
1 cube or 1 tsp. Sugar
2 dashes Bitters 

Mix all ingredients with ice and serve on the rocks or strain into a cocktail glass. 


posted in: Blogs, drinks, cocktails, camper english, history
Comments (1)

Douglas_Winship writes: I've been on a real Old Fashioned kick lately.

Of course, I get all frou frou with mine and garnish them with an orange peel. It's practically a Tiki drink when you do that.... Posted: 2:41 pm on January 11th

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