Cocktail Theory: Introduction
Cocktail Theory is the organized study to further the experimentation, limits and understanding of the "Law of 5". The Law of 5 is a natural tendency of humans act a particular way, namely to consume alcohol a particular way, no matter one's culture or time on Earth.
You may be unaware of this Law, but rest assured it is as real as the law of gravity or evolution. We welcome you to explore our study of this unique domain, and to partake in this noble experiment to enliven the human spirit.
Origins of Punch: Paantsch & British Colonials
The origins of the cocktail can be traced back to the late 1700's through early 1800's when various publications began writing of this drink called a cocktail. An older term 'cock ale' predates the word by another century, and refers to a brew of ale which was eventually added to a bag stuffed with a rooster, along with fruits and spices.
The real origins of the modern cocktail as we know it, start truly with the old-fashioned punch bowl.
A drink that was concocted in the early 1600's when international trade began booming, and exotic spices and liquor were rapidly introduced to Western society, and triggering violent conquests to control the regions where these intoxicating flavors originated.
During this period of exploration was when a young English physician, John Fryer, may have stumbled on the term punch while traveling in Goa, India in 1676.
The Hindustani word 'paanstch' meaning 'five' implied a large beverage made from five key elements - sweet, sour, alcohol, water, and spice.
Ancient Persia also have a similar word for ‘five’ written panj. Having traded directly with India since the Bronze Age and both empires well documented in consuming a drink called "arrack" (in its many spellings), it’s not a stretch that they too may have influenced the popularity of the earliest punch bowl.
Even the ancient Greeks had a drink composed of five elements. Circa 210, on the third day of the Festival of Skira, Athenians held a race in which young men ran with a grape laden vine-branch called an oschus between temples of worship. The winner received a large cup filled with a mixed drink called pentaplous meaning “five-fold” (πέντε). Therein was held a beverage of five ingredients, wine, honey, cheese, flour and oil.
Prior to Fryer's arrival, the French adventurer, François de La Boullaye-Le Gouz, also wrote about such a drink, which he called "bolleponge". Different adventurers to the region left their take on what it should be called, names such as "bolle-ponjis, paleponts, palepunzen, palapuntz and follepons."
Back in England, this exotic drink started losing its close association with sailors and dysentery, and picking up a more evolved position in well-to-do society. Cold winters made a strong and potent warming drink a welcome accompaniment to any occasion, and the growth of the merchant middle-class further helped the popularity of the punch bowl amongst social climbers.
What never changed was that Ashley continued mixing individual servings that maintained the balance of the original 'paanstch' from Goa, keeping a balance of five key elements.
The punch bowl soon found its place in coffee houses, one of the most well-known being run by a man named James Ashley.
Frequented by famous poets, authors, and artists, the house known as the London Coffee and Punch House began serving a single person drink referred to as a sneaker, tiff, or rub. Ashley mixed the drinks himself, and this individual serving size of punch is the modern definition of what we now call a 'cocktail.'
The American Settlers
The settlers brought many things with them to America in the 17th century, and they didn't forget their punch bowls. There's a reason for the Old English saying,
"Where the Dutch first settle they build a fort, the Portuguese a church, the English a punch house”
Punch continued to grow in popularity in mainstream society, getting regular attention in cookbooks for 18th century housewives. In 1742, The Complete Housewife or Accomplished Gentlewomen’s Companion, included a recipe for 'cock ale.'
Punch was also written about by founding father, Benjamin Franklin. He published an article citing over 200 different 18th century terms for being drunk in what he called The Drinkers Dictionary.
Other tall tales of the founding fathers include one about George Washington. Rumor had it that he later made a visit to The Castle, a popular social club, where he partook of so much of their punch he didn’t make an entry in his diary for three days.
The more popular punches from the years of the founding fathers have left their mark on present-day cocktails, in addition to the social clubs and houses where they were frequently imbibed.
In 1783, it was the Merchants Coffee House of Philadelphia which was selected as the first public announcement of the new United States Declaration of Independence.
One of America’s most popular punch recipes today still remains the Fish House Punch, a traditional mixture of rum, peach brandy, lemon, sugar and water.
Despite the fact that there is no clear origin or singular source for the modern cocktail, discovering new cocktails -- playing on each key element in the Law of 5, and sharing a drink with good company -- is a tradition carried forward from our ancestors to today.
Cocktail Theory: Conclusion
Our mission is to try and better understand the Law of 5 through Cocktail Theory. This isn't something we studied in school or learned in family gatherings, but rather through relentless pursuit of a standard of excellence in libations we've encountered others just as passionate as we are. This collective learning and experimentation is infectious, and amazing cocktails are now being served all over the world by students of the craft.
We hope to make a small dent in this rich tradition through the use of modern technology and new distribution models, while preserving ancient techniques. Join our noble experiment to enliven mankind.