Dictionary.com Word FAQs
Why are alcoholic drinks called cocktails?
H.L. Mencken said, "A cocktail today consists essentially of any hard liquor, any milder diluent and a dash of any pungent flavoring." It is a slang term - reportedly in print by 1806 as 'spirits of any kind, sugar, water, and bitters' - with a lost origin. There are many, many theories about the word's etymology, but none has been agreed upon. It could be a combination of the words cock (perhaps as in 'tap, faucet') and tail, but at this point all agree that the word's origin is really unknown. American initiative and imagination continue to show themselves in the making and naming of cocktails!