(Photo: Tyler Allen)

(Photo: John Tyler Allen)

Folklore dates the modern cocktail to May 6, 1806, when Federalist newspaper The Balance and Columbian Repository used it to serve a satirical backhand to a Jeffersonian candidate who lost a local election despite campaign efforts that included buying “cock-tails” for voters at a local bar. When a reader wrote in to ask, What is a cock-tail?, Croswell gave the formula – spirit, bitters, sugar, water – and further defined the drink as “an excellent electioneering potion, in as much as it renders the heart stout and bold, at the same time that it fuddles the head.” And then he went harder: “It is said also, to be of great use to a democratic candidate: because a person, having swallowed a glass of it, is ready to swallow any thing else.”

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