Fast cars, beautiful women and a Vodka Martini, shaken, not stirred. Three ingredients that will get James Bond out of his armchair if he has one yet. Three is also the minimum number of ingredients that a drink must contain to be called a cocktail, experts say.
Perhaps Ian Fleming still had the number three in his head when he gave Bond the code name 007, thus combining both lucky numbers, although the Vodka Martini may not have been Bond’s original favourite cocktail. In the first Bond adventure, Casino Royale, he orders a Vesper during a game of poker. Yes, a drink named after the only woman who succeeded in touching Bond’s heart. The legend of the Dry Martini came much later in the series. By the way, when Casino Royale arrived in cinemas in 2006, the Vesper’s success was such that Lillet, the Bordelaise manufacturer, was unable to keep up with the orders and completely ran out of stock. And a Vesper without Lillet is an impossibility, of course.
The right ingredients are indispensable when making a delicious cocktail. Nobody knows when, where and how the rules for cocktails came into being, if there are any rules at all. Just as the origin of the name is a mystery. There are various stories, two of which seem slightly more likely.
The word cocktail is said to derive from the French ‘coq’s tail’. During the American Civil War, a bar owned by the Irish woman Betsy Flanagan was packed with American and French soldiers fighting together against the English. Betsy made an alcoholic drink and decorated it with rooster feathers. A French officer was so impressed that he raised his glass in a toast: Vive le coq tail! Since cocktails are still given colourful garnishes today, this seems quite a plausible story.
The second explanation is also French in origin. The word cocktail is said to derive from the French word coquetier, an egg cup. These were used to serve drinks in New Orleans at the beginning of the 19th century. Since jiggers still look like eggcups, this explanation may also contain a hint of truth.
Even before there was a name for a mixed alcoholic drink, there was already plenty of mixing going on. Waking up with a hangover after imbibing excessive amounts of alcohol is timeless. In 17th century London, a certain Richard Stoughton brought out a highly concentrated ‘fix all’ elixir that had a so-called healing effect on a troubled stomach or loss of appetite resulting from excessive drinking or illness. In other words: a hangover cure! The substance had to be diluted with a teaspoon, originally of water, but this soon became beer, wine or a shot of cognac.
Later, in the ‘New World’ where plenty of spirits such as whiskey and rum were available, as well as an abundance of cheap sugar and sufficient clean water, the remedy caught on everywhere as ‘medicine’ that let you unashamedly drink alcohol mixed with sugar.
In 1830, chilled drinks became fashionable and the cocktail acquired the dash of cold water or ice that was still missing. Because sugar does not dissolve well in cold water, bartenders learned to make sugar syrup, sometimes enriched with a raspberry or almond flavour. Variation could begin!
What’s in a name
Cocktails often take their name from real people. This also applies, for example, to the Negroni that we serve in our Cinna Bar. Count Camillo Negroni liked to drink an Americano at Café Casoni in Florence. Because he wanted something different, one day he asked bartender Fosco Scarelli to spice up the aperitif by using the same ingredients but replacing the sparkling water with gin. The rest is history.
Time to get started yourself! Choose the most suitable day for a cocktail evening this week. You can even do so with friends if you keep the contact virtual. And maybe you will manage to make a tasty mix yourself that will immortalise your name. Or try a Vesper or Negroni. Here are the recipes.
2 cl Campari
2 cl red vermouth (Martini, Cinzano)
2 cl gin
Slices of orange
Pour the ingredients straight into the glass over the ice cubes. Stir lightly and serve with a slice of orange.
1 bottle gin
1 bottle vodka
1 bottle Lillet
Pour 3 measures of gin, 1 measure of vodka, ½ measure Lillet (French vermouth) into a shaker and serve cold with curled lemon zest and two olives on a stick.