Will the Real Cocktail Pioneer Please Stand Up?

By Derek Brown
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quinn.anya/flickr


To try Derek's recipe for a brandy drink honoring cocktail historian Phil Greene, click here.

This is a good week to drink. May 13 marks the anniversary of the first time the cocktail was defined in print. Not the name and origin, just the ingredients. Without a smoking gun, or shall we say chilly glass, the story of the cocktail's origins is still very much debated. According to New Orleans legend, the first cocktail ever created was the Sazerac, and it was made right there in the old city by apothecary Antoine Amédée Peychaud. One tourism website beams:

Is it any surprise that America's first cocktail, the Sazerac, was created in New Orleans, the city that loves to party?

Back in the early 1800's, Antoine Peychaud created the drink in a French Quarter bar and named it for his favorite French brandy, Sazerac-de-Forge et fils.

Aha, the Sazerac—a beautiful cocktail. It purportedly began as a combination of bitters and brandy, later subbing rye whiskey for the brandy. Peychaud would mix it in small eggcups known in French as coquetiers. The Anglicized version then would be "cock-tails." Nice tale, eh?

The story has one fatal flaw though, according to cocktail historian and D.C. lawyer Phil Green. Antoine Peychaud was born in 1803, the same year that the word "cocktail" appears in print and three years before it was first defined. As Phil tells it, Antoine may have been a precocious lad, but mixing drinks while under the age of three?

I thank Phil Greene for that amazing discovery, and we'll have to wonder who created the first cocktail, where, and why until we find that "chilly glass" from which it was drunk. In the meantime, it hasn't stopped me from creating my own concoctions, and this week I made one to honor Phil Greene, who is also treasurer and co-founder of the Museum of the American Cocktail, of which I'm on the board of directors.

This one is called the Treasurer, and it very much stays true to a classic blend, with the exception of a little lemon and lemon bitters (click here to learn how to make your own).

Recipe: The Treasurer

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/health/archive/2010/05/will-the-real-cocktail-pioneer-please-stand-up/56740/