The First Cocktail - Invented in 1586 as a Medicinal Sugarcane Based Concoction
Claims To 'Inventing The First Cocktail':
1. It was invented by Betsy Flanaghan in 1776, during the American Revolution and was a mix of rum, rye and apple juice. Betsy served this drink to Washington's officers and it was called a cocktail because she dressed it with a rooster's feather.
2. An apothecary called Antoine Amedee Peychaud, invented mixed drinks in New Orleans around 1795. These drinks were made in an egg-cup or coqquetier in French.
English speakers eventually changed this to cocktay and then cocktail. The first known printed use of the word cocktail was in 1803; Farmer's Cabinet (Amherst, New Hampshire, April 28), "drank a glass of cocktail - excellent for the head."
3. The drinks company Bacardi say that the cocktail was invented in Daiquiri, Cuba in 1898 by a mining engineer, Jennings Stockton Cox who mixed Bacardi rum, fresh lime juice and cane sugar.
4. It was made in 1586 by Richard Drake, the first cousin of Sir Francis Drake and was originally medicinal for sick sailors, therefore (as with modern liquid medicines) it was given on a spoon. As the medicine was for sick sailors, the spoon was a large wooden one with a cock's tail handle.
Evidence supporting the theory that the first cocktail was made in 1586:
In 1586 time there was an epidemic on Drakes ships as they sailed towards Havana. A medicinal mix was made from local (tropical ingredients) aguardiente de caña, lime, sugarcane juice and mint. In South America, mint is known as hierbabuena, literally, good herb It was not a cocktail as we know it, a modern cocktail is often judged on its taste, alcohol content, type of spirits uses and other ingredients.
Looking for Sir Francis Drake; Extracts of research by Gail Swanson:
Extracts of this research about Drakes large fleet in 1586 states that there was an intended raid on one last Spanish town (Havana) However, an epidemic onboard his ships and, perhaps, the fortifications he saw at Havana changed his plan. Ref i) Drakes fleet was in no fit condition for any fighting and needed medicine. The epidemic may well have been dysentery and sailors would also have been suffering from or weakened by scurvy. The South America Indians knew a cure for dysentery at that time; it was a drink made from the bark of chuchuhuasi with aguardiente de caña. It is recorded that in 1586, Richard Drake made a medicine using aguardiente de caña, mint, limes and sugarcane juice. Scurvy is a vitamin C deficiency, and would have been cured by drinking lime juice. In the 1700's English sailors were called limeys, because of the use of limes in their rations.
It is also recorded that this medicinal mix (subsequently called 'El Draque') was taken during cholera epidemics:
On one occasion, during one of the worst epidemics of cholera to attack the population of Havana, the narrator Ramón de Paula writes: "Every day at eleven o'clock, I consume a little Draque made from aquardiente and I am doing very well."
Identifying the most likely date the medicinal mix was first made:
It is established that in 1586 that Drakes ships had an epidemic on the way to Havana, the Spaniards were well prepared and hoped to defeat Drake, and the fighting would have been fierce. Weakened by an epidemic, Drakes fleet was vulnerable and the sailors urgently needed some kind of medicine It was known that the South American Indians had effective natural medicines. A relatively recent translation records the disappearance of Drakes fleet on June 4th; see appendix.
1) Another part of the translated document says that 5 days before June 9th Indians in Matacumbe found some planks, and that in them there came some wooden arrows with iron tips and white feathers; see appendix
2) The evidence suggests that the fleet, on its way to Havana suffered an epidemic and was in no fit state to engage in battle, therefore the fleet went into hiding on June 4th whilst on this same day one ship went to Matecombe about 100 miles from Havana) to obtain ingredients for the medicine which was to be made with aquardient de caña, limes sugar cane; see appendix
3) It is known that that the bark of a tree called that chuchuhuasi, when soaked in aguardiente is an anti dysenteric, a digestive stimulant and a febrifuge (reduces fever). Limes help eliminate scurvy and the medicine subsequently called Draque was drank during cholera epidemics. The fleet then raided (plundered) more one place, St Augustine's watchtower and returned home. Therefore it can be concluded that the medical mix was made on or shortly after the 4th June 1586 when the fleet was suffering an epidemic.
Sources on the internet that in 1586 Richard Drake, invented a cocktail known as the Draque, Drake or el Draque in honour of his Captain. The idea of making a new cocktail mix to in honour of a person is a relatively new idea. The medicinal mix called El Draque had similar ingredients to a modern cocktail and can be said to be a cocktail.
Richard Drake made the medicinal concoction called El Draque on or shortly after the 4th June. One of the ingredients of el Draque was later changed from aquardient to rum, and the cocktail was called the mojito. In 1940, Cuban playwright and poet Federico Villoch proclaimed, 'When aquardiente was replaced with rum, the Draque was to be called a Mojito. Similar cane sugar cocktails (typically el Draque), based on aquardient de caña, limes and 'sugar cane' can still found in a few London bars, one of which is aptly named 'The Sugar Cane' and is about 5 miles from the Tudor Shipbuilding Yard at Deptford by the River Thames. This Yard was first developed in 1513 by Henry VIII to build vessels for the Royal Navy.
In 1996, Jerry Wilkinson, a historian requested Dr. Eugene Lyon, Flagler College Center for Historic Research, translate an interesting document on a search for Drake at the Keys, part of this translated document written at Havana on June 27th, 1586 - identified the English fleet disappeared on June 4th. Ref i)
Another part of the translated document, (this time by Vicente Gonzalez, looking for Drake at the Keys), showed that wooden arrows with iron tips and white feathers and planks had been found on Matecumbe on 5 days before 9th June Ref, this is again the same date June 4th and they would have gone ashore to find ingredients for the medical concoction that was needed for the epidemic on the ships which had disappeared / were in hiding. Please note Matacombe has various spellings, Matacumbe, Mateconbe, Mattecumbe, Maticombe. These are all the same location.
The bark of a tree chuchuhuasi is soaked in aguardiente and its properties include; anti dysenteric, digestive stimulant, febrifuge (reduces fever). Ref rain-tree.com/chuchuhuasi. Please note that aguardiente is sometimes spelled aquardiente. It is the same liquor.
About the Author
A technical writer with over 20 years experience. A former University lecturer.