Cocktail History

History Of Cocktail Culture



History of Cocktail Culture


For as long as people have been drinking Alcohol, they have been mixing drinks. This dates back at least 10,000 years. From beer spiked with intoxicants to Wine infused with Thyme, it’s fair to say that the desire both to increase mood-altering effects of booze and to improve the taste have been with the human race for millennia and it doesn't seem to be leaving us quickly. It used to be that cocktails were for girls and rich men who bought them for girls who liked rich men.

Things have changed, for the better! A cocktail in hand is a must, lets look into how we got to be in this great cocktail age we now live in.


A long time ago.

The arrival of sugar opened up a new era for producing drinks. By medieval times the rich were spicing up their ales with sugars & spices from the Middle East, where sugar originates from (India). In fact they loved sugar so much that women would regularly blacken their own teeth in order to give the impression that they could afford so much sugar that their teeth were rotten. so any excuse for adding extra sugar was snapped up by these medieval hipsters in the form of drinks.


Fast forward...

By Shakespearean times mixing drinks was big news. Probably the most enduring cocktail produced found its origins in India –

Punch. Based on 5 ingredients, Spirit, Sugar, Water, Citrus juice & spices. Crudely similar to the cocktails of today... It made it sway into the theater culture and cocktail drinking was worn as a badge of honour when impressing socially.


Fast forward...

At the turn of the 19th century, just as the word cocktail was making it’s print debut, many significant developments were also made. such as by 1800 Ice became for sale in America. A big plus for the bartender.

In the middle of the 19th Century in North America the production of other spirits and liqueurs began. Among the immigrants were people from all over Europe who implemented their knowledge of distillation in their new home. The world needs immigrants.

Around the turn of the century, the American Bar was already an integral part of life in American society. The import routes from Old Europe worked, and many spirits came into the country, and with it came the American enjoyment and pleasure of experimentation with nothing standing in the way. There were countless cocktails invented, many of which died a death, but some became world famous.

in 1967 Artificial Carbonation was achieved & refrigeration arrived on the scene. These are all developments which aided the cocktail to be brought to a mass global market, and from then it’s popularity became infinitely expandable.

For me the link as always been between cocktails and the fashion of the day. James Bond drinks Martinis (Vespers to be exact) and girls wearing 'cocktail' dresses. Young desirable couples on their way to cocktail parties etc... etc...


Put simply. Drinking a cocktail makes you look better...


(this is very brief and designed to make you look at the drink in front of you and be inspired to find out more)


ernest hemmingway

Because everyone wants to be Ernest


But where does the word 'cocktail' come from? comment below with the most plausible in your head.


The dictionary should be able to tell us but my guess is that the monk that was doing the writing at the time was too drunk to spell it so gave up as the word Cocktail’s origins are lost according to the Oxford English Dictionary. Some possible Explanations are:


Cock-ale was an old English ale, spiced with a ground-up red cockerel mixed in – the word became applied to other drinks (Containing niether of these ingredients) and gained a T.


In a Mexican Tavern, English Sailors noticed that mixed drinks were stirred with the root of a plant known as colo de gallo, or in English ‘Cock’s Tail’. The Sailors brought the name to England and thence the US.


There are many more suggestions as to the origin of the word. what do you think it originates from?




Just About Everything You Will Ever Need To Know About Scotch

There isn't many spirits in the world that make our office as happy as scotch does, in fact when we mentioned this as the topic of this weeks post there was visible salivation.

So let's dive straight in so we can open up a bottle and have a dram.

Lets quickly get the classifications out of the way - remember we are only looking at scotch today, have no fear though go and take a look at what we have on bourbon.


It must also be made in Scotland from grain grown in Scotland. Aged a minimum of 3 years in Scotland and bottled at no lower then 40% abv.

The preservation of scotch and the scotch distilleries means that the classification of scotch is notoriously difficult to be mishandled or even misrepresented. There are 68 characteristics to be measured and as things stand there are only 109 classified scotch's in production.

Brief History-

The History of scotch is so huge that it would warrant an entire series of posts (If you woud like to see that then just leave a comment below) so we have narrowed it down to a quick over view. For a better understanding of a complete whisky history we recommend Lew Bryson's excellent book titled Tasting Whisky, probably the single best book on the subject.

Whisky, on the whole, has been produced in Scotland for hundreds of years. The Gaelic "usquebaugh", meaning "Water of Life", phonetically became "usky" and then "whisky" in English

According to the Scotch Whisky Association, no one knows exactly when the art of distilling was first practised in Scotland; it is known that the Ancient Celts practised distilling, and that the liquid they produced — known as uisge beatha ("water of life") — evolved into Scotch Whisky.

The first taxes on whisky production were imposed in 1644, causing a rise in illicit whisky distilling in the country. Around 1780, there were about 8 legal distilleries and 400 illegal ones. In 1823, Parliament eased restrictions on licensed distilleries with the "Excise Act", while at the same time making it harder for the illegal stills to operate, thereby ushering in the modern era of Scotch production. Two events helped the increase of whisky's popularity: first, a new production process was introduced in 1831 called Coffey or Patent Still; the whisky produced with this process was less intense and smoother. Second, the Phylloxera bug destroyed wine and cognac production in France in 1880.


There are five main stages to the production of Single Malt Whisky; Malting, Mashing, Fermentation, Distillation and Aging.

Malting is the process by which the barley is steeped in tanks of water for 2-3 days to start germination of the grain. This germination converts the starches in the grain into soluble sugars that are easier to break down by the yeast. This process must be stopped at the correct time so that the grain does not use up too much of the starch for its own purpose. After soaking, the grain is spread out on the floor and constantly turned to help dry it out ready for peat smoking. Modern methods of malting use troughs and hot air to dry the grain, although the traditional method is to do it by hand that takes more time but gives a better, fuller flavour as the peat flavours can attach themselves easier to the barley. The barley is fully dried in a peat smoke kiln. This reduces the water content from around 45% to 4.5%. The area from which the peat is taken affects the flavours greatly and contributes to the individuality of the single malt.

The next stage of the production process is called Mashing. This is done when the grains are completely dry. They are ground down into a powder (called ‘grist’) and mixed with warm water (in a ‘Mash-Tun’) where natural enzymes in the grain convert the starch into sugars. The resulting solution is known as ‘wort’.

Fermentation occurs when the wort is transferred into a vat (or ‘washback’) and yeast added. The fermentation process takes between 48 and 60 hours and creates a sour beer known as ‘wash’, which is between 7-9% alcohol.

Scotch Whisky is usually double distilled in pot stills; although there are a handful of scotches that triple distill (e.g. Auchentoshan). The first distillation occurs in a larger still called a ‘wash still’. It makes a ‘low wine’ of approximately 20% alcohol. The second distillation occurs in a smaller still and creates a distillate of approximately 70% abv. As with all pot-distilled spirits, the heads (‘foreshots’) and tails (‘faints’) are cut to leave the ‘heart’ of the first and second distillate. The head and tails are added back into the low wines for re-distillation.

Scotch Production


What is peat?-

Peat is an accumulation of partially decayed vegetation matter. Peat forms in wetland bogs, moors and peat swamp forests. Peat is harvested as an important source of fuel in certain parts of the world. This is what give the whisky it’s smokiness.


Scotland was traditionally divided into four regions: The Highlands, Lowland, Islay and Campbeltown.

Speyside, encompassing the Spey river valley in north-east Scotland, once considered part of the Highlands, has almost half of the total number of distilleries in Scotland within its geographic boundaries; consequently it is officially recognized as a region unto itself.

Campbeltown was removed as a region several years ago, yet was recently re-instated as a recognized production region.

The Islands is not recognized as a region by the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) and is considered part of the Highlands region.


Bartender Infographic


Flavour Profile of the Regions-

Islay- The whiskies of the distilleries along the southeastern coast of the island, Laphroaig, Lagavulin, and Ardbeg, have the strong peaty character which is considered to be characteristic of the Islay malts, Many describe this as a “medicinal” flavour. They also possess notes of iodine, seaweed and salt.

Highland- The character of the far North Highland malts are greatly influenced by the local soil and the coastal location of the distilleries. They tend to be light bodied whiskies with a spicy character and a dryish finish, sometimes with a trace of saltiness.Malt whiskies from the Central, Southern and Eastern  Highlands are quite a mixed bunch. They are generally fruity and sweet but not as sweet as the malts found in Speyside. They are lighter bodied and sweet and just like other Highland malts they tend to have a dry finish.

Lowland- Lowland region whiskies are mellower than whiskies from the neighbouring Highlands, and are very much appreciated by those new to malt Whisky and experienced malt drinkers alike.

Speyside- The huge selection of Speyside malts offer a variety of strengths and can generally be broken down into two categories, the heavy, rich sherry flavoured malts and the more complex light floral flavoured malts. Speyside malts are essentially sweet whiskies, although some can have a little peaty character with just a slight whiff of smoke.

Campbell Town- The Campbeltown single malts are very distinctive, tending to be full bodied, renowned for their depth of flavour and also for their slightly salty finish. With peat adding a hint of flavour similar to that found in an Islay malt.

Islands- Due to the location of the Islands distilleries their whiskies tend to have a coastal feel to them. They are slightly more peaty in character than most highland malts but not to the extent of peatiness that you will find in Islay malts. The peatiness is generally softer and sweeter than there stronger cousins from Islay.

Scotch flovours


Blended Whiskies-

Blended Scotch whisky constitutes over 90% of the whisky produced in Scotland. Blended Scotch whiskies contain both malt whisky and grain whisky. They were initially created as an alternative to single malt whiskies which were considered by some to be too harsh. Master blenders combine the various malts and grain whiskies to produce a consistent "brand style". Notable blended Scotch whisky brands include Bells, Dewar's, Johnnie Walker, Whyte and Mackay, Cutty Sark, J&B, The Famous Grouse and Chivas Regal.

One advantage to a blended whisky it that it will always taste the same every year. Whereas single malts can slightly alter depending on whether conditions and the quality of barrel etc .Blends should always be the same, as the Master Blender can change the recipe of the blend. For example a blender may put a different amount of one whisky in the blend to keep the taste consistent to the taste of the previous years blend.

The popularity of Scotch as also been mirrored in the popularity of Scotch cocktails. There is a whole world of possibilities out there for you and other bartenders.

Go grab a bottle, take a look at the label. Where is it made? What does it taste like? Why does it taste like that?

Make a cocktail with it, how does the Scotch flavours change the taste of the cocktail?

Have fun. Scotch is a beautiful thing.



When You Learn About Vodka You Will Never Think They Are All The Same Again



I bet that you take one look at the different ranges of vodka and if it isn't a flavoured one, you might be thinking that they are all 'basically' the same.

First of all, you can't be blamed for thinking like this. Secondly, you wouldn't be the best that you can be unless you learn to break a few myths on what you think that you already know. That's how you become a better bartender

So next time you are behind the stick and get questioned on vodka. You will have the ammo to fire away from the doubters of vodka, even if you started this post as one of those doubters.

We have delved into the subtle, and sometimes not so subtle, differences between vodka. Backed it up with the facts so that you have the correct knowledge to wow customers and other bartenders alike.

So let's take a look together at the different styles of vodka that are available. Then we will delve into different vodkas with character. Which include aged vodka's, western style vodka and finally flavoured vodka.


Today it is wrong to think that all vodka tastes the same or that it tastes of nothing at all.

Many vodkas remain neutral in taste to provide the ideal base for mixed drinks. But, some will deliver tastes and aromas beyond the taste of the alcohol itself.

some Vodkas will deliver tastes and aromas beyond the taste of the alcohol itself. Click To Tweet


The 'best' of these spirits will rightly pride themselves on their purity.

Unlike other spirits, with vodka, there are no industry standards that can imply quality through letters or marks on the label. Instead, vodka brand names offer the promise of consistency through the processes and raw materials used to create the vodka.

Country of origin, if stated, can suggest the use of certain raw materials and production processes. But more on that later.

Now in recent times there has been increasing references to the use of specific raw materials regardless of country of origin. This provides more guidance about the likely character of the vodka. Much will then depend upon the filtration process and the subtleties that it provides.





These will include Eastern rye, wheat and potato vodkas. That, thanks to modern distillation techniques, are now pure and clean, unlike their ancestors. These vodkas will always keep some of the characters of their raw material though. As they have been distilled to relatively low levels of alcohol.

These will include vodkas rooted in the East, like in Poland. A country on the spice trade route from Asia to Europe and will use exotic herbs and spices. Or local materials such as the fragrant bison grass or wild bees’ honey. Examples of this are Zubrowka and Krupnik.

Initially, such ingredients were used to mask the unpalatable raw alcohol and to help the ‘medicine’ go down.

But, as the aristocracy in both Russia and Poland took greater responsibility for distillation. Flavours and aromas were added to enhance and individualise the vodkas to set them apart from others.

These traditions are strong. The flavours result from lengthy processes such as infusion, maceration or leaching.

vodka infusion



Today such vodkas can be enjoyed for their individuality whether mixed or taken neat.

These are not to be confused with some of today's flavoured vodkas that are the result of cold compounding.
There is also an increasing number of Western vodkas, keen to be differentiated from neutral vodkas. They differentiate themselves by claiming that the process of distillation, or the character of the vodka. Is retained from single or multiple grains, potatoes or fruit that carries through into the finished spirit. Either in terms of taste or texture or both.


This is a tradition noted particularly in Poland, where the vodka may be laid down in empty wine casks at the birth of a daughter. Then the vodka is to be enjoyed on her wedding day.

These are aged in oak barrels in much the same way that whisky is. Even the big vodka companies such as Absolut Vodka have created their own oak barrel aged vodkas available for sale.


Initially all, and still most Western vodkas are rectified spirits. These are usually distilled from grain or molasses and filtered.

The more expensive vodkas are filtered through tons of charcoal. They are then reduced with pure demineralised water and bottled, ready to drink, with no maturation.

They are to be judged on their purity and cleanliness alone. They are simply pure alcohol and water. They are style not substance, packaging not content. This may be the keys to the success of most with most companies claiming that their exceptional purity is why they are so successful.

This style of vodka arrived in the West thanks to Rudolph Kunett. Whose family, before the Russian Revolution, had supplied grain to the Smirnov family.

vodka rudolph kunett

He met Vladimir Smirnov in Paris after both had fled the Bolsheviks. It was there it was agreed he would take the recipe for Smirnoff to the States (Vladimir had changed his surname from Smirnov to Smirnoff).

Wait... What are the Bolsheviks?

Below quote taken from here

In 1917, two revolutions swept through Russia, ending centuries of imperial rule and setting in motion political and social changes that would lead to the formation of the Soviet Union. In March, growing civil unrest, coupled with chronic food shortages, erupted into open revolt, forcing the abdication of Nicholas II (1868-1918), the last Russian czar. Just months later, the newly installed provisional government was itself overthrown by the more radical Bolsheviks, led by Vladimir Lenin (1870-1924).

In short, Vladimir was rich and needed to get out of Russia before Communism took over.

It was in America in 1934, post- Prohibition, that Vladimir setup the West’s first vodka distillery. But he was ahead of his time and it was not until a marketing man, called John Martin, acquired the rights to Smirnoff in 1946. He then launched Smirnoff, as a pure, neutral spirit to mix with anything.

It was at that point that the West woke up to vodka.

The Moscow Mule was the first of many cocktails to encourage sampling of this tasteless, odourless spirit (in the western style).

moscow mule vodka


In the 50+ years since vodka has grown to become the world’s most popular spirit. The appeal of most Western vodkas remains their lack of aroma beyond the pure smell of ethyl alcohol. A taste that’s light and crisp without heavy flavours or oily texture, that won't overwhelm any liquid added as a mixer.

See a bigger look at the history of vodka here


Flavoured vodka is defined as having been given a predominant flavour other than that of the raw materials.

It may be sweetened, blended, flavoured, matured or coloured. Though many are brand extensions of vodkas that have appeared relatively recently.

It is certain that the original vodkas would have been flavoured to mask the raw nature of the alcohol. Today flavourings, however, may be cold compounded extracts. Natural ingredients have been macerated in alcohol and/or water. The result of percolation or flavoured distillates blended in before bottling.


In Russia vodka is traditionally drunk chilled or frozen and downed in one.

The Russians were known to shoot rather than sip partly because of a belief that the fumes and not the liquid caused drunkenness.

The world of alcohol is full of amazing facts, we wrote an article on some of the best ones here

In Poland however, vodka is usually sipped, with food and at room temperature to allow the tastes and aromas to be enjoyed.

In the West, vodka has gained its popularity mixed with fruit juices or in cocktails. But today, knowing more about what’s in the bottle and the production processes. In fact today regional variations, heritage and traditions are as important to the enjoyment of vodka as any other spirits.




So next time you are faced with the question of vodka, you should be able to ask what style of vodka the customer wants. And also give them a little background on what they are about to drink

This is just the first in two parts of Vodka take a look at;

go read the second part now

Hit me up in the comments if you want to know more

You can still grab your free download below also

Key Takeaways:

Vodka companies are now fighting to be the purest of the pure in both processing and raw ingredients.

Different raw materials can be used to produce vodka, you can normally tell which raw material has been used by the country of origin.

Though the raw material used to produce the vodka is important to the character created, so is the nature of filtration.

job roles

Job Roles Within A Bar Outlined - Stop Confusing Your Staff & Get The Best Out Of Them

A lot of staff are not good at their jobs.... because they haven't been told what their job is. So here is your simple guide to the different job roles within a bar

It's that simple.

This post on job roles within a bar is designed for you to print out and stick to the wall, Give to new starters or even to give to your boss to show them what you should be doing.

You lot have just got to promise me one thing...

Integrate these job roles into your bar and watch how easy it becomes to operate as one well-oiled machine

Profits will soar.

Tips will soar.

And most importantly, staff and customers will be happier

But Joel - How do you know that everyone will become happier?

Well, this happens to be the first thing I do when I get to work on bringing a bar back up to speed. I simply make sure every member of staff knows exactly what their job role within the bar is.

Now, this isn't something that I have dreamt up... No this is backed by research.


job roles within a bar


When there are no excuses surrounding an employee, i.e when something doesn't get done because they claim not to know that they were supposed to, you can really start to evaluate them for the roles they are in.

It allows us as hospitality professionals to have a baseline of the minimum job expectancy.

How many job roles have you been in where the manager has favoured someone on their personality rather than their ability to perform the job role within the bar properly?


The guys over at JobDig place extreme importance on knowing your job role

"If you or your coworkers have any questions about your responsibilities, it can make for a very inefficient, confusing, and unsatisfying situation­- and it's a terrible way to work. Misunderstanding can be avoided if everyone knows the game plan in advance.

The more you work to learn what's expected of you, the more recognized, appreciated, respected, and valued you will be!"


The job roles within a bar we will look at today will be

  • Floortender

  • Barback

  • Bartender

Don't forget, you can download your printable PDF file here as a handout or a stick-up poster

Right, let's get into it

job roles within a bar


The floor tenders job roles are often regarded as the least important or least cool job in a bar.

It is however equally as important as the other roles. The average customer spends only 10% of their time at the bar being served by a bartender.

The rest of their time is spent Front of House (FoH) in the customer area. The floor tenders role is to look after the customer area.

A customer only spends 10% of their time at the actual bar! #TheFloorIsWhereItsAt Click To Tweet

It is therefore essential the floor tender provides the highest level of service as it is likely they will make the biggest difference to a customers’ experience...

How many times have you gone to sit at a table and realised the previous customer has spilt a drink and their glasses haven’t been cleared... what impression does this give to you as a customer?

Floortenders should not be in the back room for prolonged periods of time as there may have been a spillage, breakage or glassware which needs collecting.

The floor-tender is responsible for the following job roles within a bar:

Clearing glasses from tables and the customer area

Wiping tables after the customer has left and the glasses have been cleared

Ensuring the toilets are kept to the highest standards (in some bars)

Clearing any empty glasses from the smoking area, emptying & cleaning ashtrays and wiping tables in the smoking area on a regular basis

Sweeping up any breakages in the customer area – with the ‘claims culture’ we now live in this is essential, if a customer falls onto broken glass your company could face a hefty court case and you would most likely lose your job

Mopping up any spillages on the floor & placing a wet floor sign above the spillage. (Again see above regarding compensation claims)

job roles within a bar

Bar Back

The bar back's job roles is the hardest role in any bar, but without one a bar simply wouldn’t run.

It is the bar backs’ job to provide the bartenders with everything they need to be able to serve quality drinks to the customer.

The bar back is the communication point between the bar and the floor.

If the bar is running low on glasses, the bartenders will inform the bar back, who will then inform the floor tenders so they can concentrate on getting as many glasses as possible over the next few floor runs they do.

The bar back is responsible for the following job roles within a bar:

Washing the glasses collected by the floor tenders and replacing them on the bar

Replenishing stations with ice

Replenishing stations with cut fruit

Replenishing stations with citrus juice

Replenishing stations with fruit juice

Restocking bottle fridges with the labels facing forward. When restocking fridges the bar back should not wait for the fridge to be empty. Move all the cold bottles to one side and fill the gap with bottles from the cellar or the cool room (whichever your bar uses). This way the bartender can always serve a cold beer to the customer without having to reach to the back of the fridge to get a cold one

Restocking each stations bar caddy with long straws, sip straws & Bev naps

Changing the bin on the bar for an empty one if it becomes too full

Replacing any empty spirit bottles for the bar. If a bottle is placed on the back bar with a pour spout, in the bar back must get a new bottle from the spirit store & replace it on the back bar or in the appropriate speed rail. If there is no pour spout in the bottle the bartender will have already replaced it from the backup stock from underneath the bar.

Changing kegs/postmix/gas in the cellar. Cellars are very dangerous places and no member of staff should attempt any of the above activities unless management has given the go ahead.

The best #barbacks make the best #bartenders Click To Tweet



Bartender Job Roles

As a bartender, you become the face of the business as you are likely to be the first person a customer comes into contact with when they enter.

First impressions count, so make sure yours is a good one!!! You must always be smartly dressed, well groomed, hair tidy and have high levels of personal hygiene.

Each bartender must provide the high service expectations we outlined above.

Bartenders are responsible for the following job roles within a bar:

Giving customers the highest standard of service

Serving the highest quality drinks to each customer

Ensuring the bar top is kept clean and dry at all times

Serving every drink on a bev nap (beer mat)

Serving every bottle and draught product with the branding facing the customer

As a bartender, you become the face of the business! So do it right Click To Tweet

For our more in-depth look at the job roles of a bartender then check out our 20 commandments.

So there are your job roles with a bar. what else would you add? let us know below.

The best suggestions will get added to the post.

Remember you can download the PDF cheat sheet for this post.

Dealing with Drunks

Dealing With The Drunks

Part of being a bartender is your ability for dealing with drunks and unruly customers.

It is essential you deal with customers who have had a little bit too much to drink in the correct manner to get the best outcome.

Remember – it is illegal to serve customers who are too drunk as you may be putting their lives at risk. Bottom line, don't serve the intoxicated.

Drinking alters people’s perception and ability to control their actions.

How would you feel if you served someone who was already far too intoxicated and they walked out of the bar and got run over because they didn’t see the car coming... not very good I’m guessing!!!

dealing with drunks

Offer Water

If you feel a customer is well on their way, instead of serving them alcohol suggest they have a water to sober up a little bit or suggest they get some food to soak up some of the alcohol.

Remember to always use a friendly tone of voice and not speak to the customer in a patronising manner, as this will cause them to become defensive and demanding.


The second method of dealing with a drunk customer is the ‘ignore the drunk or drunks’ method.

If the customer has already been cut off or you think they are too drunk to be served let them know you’ll be with them in a minute.

Try to serve the other people at the bar, avoiding them but telling them you’ll be with them in a minute.

Remember – this method only works if the bar is busy enough for you to appear too busy.

Hopefully, the customer will get bored of waiting and move on.

Get Their Friends On Your Side

The third method is to employ a more sober friend to help with the situation.

Just have a quiet word with their friend and let them know you think they have had a little bit too much to drink.

Advise them that their friend needs to cool off for a while, otherwise, they may be asked to leave.

The friend will then be on your side and encourage the drunk to calm it down so he or she won’t ruin the rest of the groups’ night.

If you ever feel uncomfortable dealing with a drunk customer ask a manager to deal with the situation.

As managers, we should have all been trained in coping with unruly customers. Managers would rather you come to them for help rather than putting yourself in an uncomfortable position.

Communication is key when dealing with drunks.

If you have cut off a customer it is essential that you let all other bartenders, managers, bar backs and floor tenders know that they have been cut off.

The customer will no doubt try and get a drink from another member of staff.

If we as a team present a united front that the customer will not be getting served again in your establishment, he or she will most likely give up and move on.

Best ways to deal with the drunk customers #BABBT Click To Tweet