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Cocktail History in America: The Golden Age (1806-1910s)

The guide includes information about materials in the History of Food & Drink Collection relating to cocktail history in America and related food, social, domestic, and economic history. It also has tools and resources for completing historical research.

From a Printed Definition to a Forbidden Fruit (or Grain)

By the early 19th century, the communal punch bowl was also being downsized to a single cup portion andLouis' Mixed Drinks, 1901, front cover the contents began to change a bit. While the concept certainly wasn't brand new, in 1806, the Balance & Columbian Repository of Hudson, New York, used a new word which, in an issue a week later, as per a reader's request, was more clearly defined. (It is believed that an 1803 newspaper used the word first, but a surviving issue of that paper isn't in any public hands.) The word was "cock-tail" and it was defined by the editor as "a stimulating liquor, composed of spirits of any kind, sugar, water, and bitters—it is vulgarly called bittered sling." The citrus and spice of punches had been traded for bitters, whose widespread use for both medicinal and cocktail purposes was well on the rise. 

As the 19th century progressed, cocktails remained the work of professionals--In other words, for the most part, one went out in search of a cocktail. In 1862, the first bartender's guide was published, written by an American named Jerry Thomas. From there, guides for bartenders began to boom and by the end century and into the next, home bars were beginning to support the art of the cocktail in the comfort of one's own rooms...for a little while, at least.


Suggested Books & Manuscripts in Special Collections


  • Beverages and Sandwiches for Your Husband's Friends. New York : Brentano's, c1893. Call Number: YX 951 B5
  • Bowditch, Henry I. Intemperance in the Light of Cosmic Laws. New York: United States Brewers Association, 1888. Call Number: HV 5035 B7
  • Corson, Juliet. Miss Corson's Practical American Cookery and Household Management: An Every-day Book for American Housekeepers, Giving the Most Acceptable Etiquette of American Hospitality, and Comprehensive and Minute Directions for Marketing, Carving, and General Table-Service, together with Suggestions for the Diet of Children and the Sick‚ÄčNew York : Dodd, Mead and Company, c1885. Call Number: TX 715 C843 1885. Available online
  • De Salis, Mrs. (Harriet Anne). Drinks a la Mode: Cups and Drinks for Every Kind of Season. London ; New York : Longmans, Green, 1891. Call Number: TX 815 D33 1891
  • Drinks as They are Mixed: A Manual of Quick Reference: Containing Upwards of 300 Recipes for Mixing and Serving Drinks...:Including Toasts and Sentiments for All Occasions. Chicago [Ill.] : Frederick J. Drake and Co., c1904. Call Number: TX 951 L69 1904 
  • Fowler, Harriet P. Vegetarianism, the Radical Cure for Intemperance. New York : M.L. Holbrook & Co., 1886. Call Number: TX 932 F78 1886
  • Hegenbarth's Bowlen, Punsch-, und Kaffee-Haus-Getränkebuch: eine Sammlung zeitgemässer Vorschriften zur Herstellung von kalten, warmen und sonstigen Mischgetränken: Mit besonderer Berücksichtigung der in- und ausländischen Kaffeehaus-Getränke der "american drinks", sowie Äpfel und sonstiger Frucht Bowlen und Punsche. Dresden-Plauen : Max Hegenbarth's Verlag, 1903. Call Number: TX 951 H45 1905
  • Here's How: A Handbook of Recipes of Spirituous and Non-Spirituous Drinks Gathered from Authoritative Sources. [S.l. : s.n., 19--]. Call Number: TX 951 H46 1900z
  • Meyer, Alfred Richard. Das Kidronsquellchen und andere Trinksame Ubungen. Berlin, Priber & Lammers [1913] Call Number: PT 2625 E825 K5 1913
  • Schmidt, William. The Flowing Bowl: When and What to Drink. New York : C.L. Webster, 1892, c1891. Call Number: TX 815 S36 1892
  • Spencer, Edward. The Flowing Bowl: a Treatist on Drinks of All Kinds and of All Periods, Interspersed with Sundry Anecdotes and Remininscences. London : Grant Richards, 1903.Call Number: TP 520 S64 1903
  • Thomas, Jerry. How to Mix Drinks, or, The Bon-Vivant's Companion: Containing Clear and Reliable Directions for Mixing All the Beverages Used in the United States, Together with the Most Popular British, French, German, Italian, Russian, and Spanish Recipes, Embracing Punches, Juleps, Cobblers, etc., etc., etc., in Endless Variety; to Which is Appended A Manual for the Manufacture of Cordials, Liquors, Fancy Syrups, &c., &c...Illustrated with Descriptive Engravings, the Whole Containing over 600 Valuable Recipes. By Christian Schulz. New York: Dick & Fitzgerald, 1862. Call Number: TX 951 T48 1862
  • Toasts and Maxims: A Book of Humor to Pass the Time. New York : R.F. Fenno & Co., 1908. Call Number: PN 6341 T627 1908
  • Wilkes, Don. The Bachelor Book: A Goodly Collection of Recipes for Compounding Divers Delectable Mixtures, with Toasts Proper to the Ceremonial Drinking of the Same: to Which is Added Some Chafing Dish Menus Right Seemly for the Creation and Appeasement of Appetite: Also, a Chapter on the Art of Carving in Good Company, a Dissertation on the Philosophy of Clothes in Modern Life, and Finally Some Minor Offences. London : A.J. White, Limited, [1903?]. Call Number: RM 671 M6 W55 1903


Suggested Readings (Beyond Special Collections)

  • Wondrich, David. Imbibe! Updated and Revised Edition: From Absinthe Cocktail to Whiskey Smash, a Salute in Stories and Drinks to "Professor" Jerry Thomas, Pioneer of the American Bar. TarcherPerigee, 2015.

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