The earliest definition of cocktail was in the May 13, 1806 edition of The Balance and Columbian Repository, a publication in Hudson, New York, in which an answer was provided to the question, “What is a cocktail?”. It replied:
“Cocktail is a stimulating liquor composed of spirits of any kind, sugar, water, and bitters – it is vulgarly called a bittered sling and is supposed to be an excellent electioneering potion, inasmuch as it renders the heart stout and bold, at the same time that it fuddles the head. 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 anything else.”
More than 200 years later cocktails are undoubtedly less political in nature but infinitely more popular. We have cocktail culture, cocktail parties, cocktail umbrellas, cocktail dresses and more. And the cocktails themselves have become as wildly creative and as varied as the imagination itself.
“A cocktail is an alcoholic mixed drink that contains two or more ingredients – at least one of those must be a spirit,” explains Matthew Khoury, food and beverage manager at Protea Hotel Fire & Ice! Melrose Arch.
“Cocktails were originally a mixture of spirits, sugar, water, and bitters. The word has come to mean almost any mixed drink that contains alcohol. A cocktail today usually contains one or more kinds of spirit and one or more mixers, such as soda or fruit juice. Additional ingredients may be ice, sugar, honey, milk, cream, and various herbs.”
Among the classic and modern cocktails served at the glamorous glittering bar in this gorgeous Protea Hotel Fire & Ice! you will find the signature drink, the Fire&Ice martini, a sweet and fiery mix of chocolate and chilli flavours, which represents everything that is both hot and cool about the establishment.
Dean Ogilvie, food and beverage manager at the Protea Hotel Fire & Ice! Cape Town says contradiction is in right now, when it comes to fashionable cocktails, with a huge emphasis on natural extracts and fresh produce.
“South Africans have really picked up their game when it comes to beverage ingredient foreign imports,” says Dean. “Base drinks like cucumber extract, elderflower syrup, cumin coulis are things you would never hear about let alone find in a local bar. Gone are the days of creams, chunky pieces of fruit, high concentrates of alcohol and lava lamp glassware. There is just so much more to it. Cocktails are a refined art form which can bring happiness to anyone, be it a quick one after work, or a dinner party or even while watching ‘chick flick’.”
Protea Hotel Fire & Ice! Cape Town is of course famous, legendary even, for its range of naughty milkshakes made with premium Stoli vodka and available in a delicious range of flavours that give an interesting twist on the traditional cocktail, such as the Cosmostolitan.
Among the signature and classic cocktails on the menu, look for the best selling one which proudly carries the name Fire&Ice! It’s made with blue curacao pearls, triple distilled vodka, Bacardi rum, Tanqueray No10, Red Bull and strawberry extract.
“We use this one for clients’ teambuilding – where the delegates have to make it based on a riddle we provide,” says Dean.
Other cocktails on the menu at Protea Hotel Fire & Ice! Cape Town include the Turkish Delight Martini, Blood Orange Caprihina and Litchi Breeze Bramble – gin stirred over crushed ice with fresh lemon juice and litchi puree, laced with elderflower extract.
“A great cocktail differs from taste to taste. Traditionally, it must be served cold, it must look appealing and it has to be able to set all the senses alight,” says Dean.
“For me, the best part is seeing the guest’s face light up with a smile after tasting what he initially thought would not be drinkable. For example I have developed a few beverages (which will be on our new cocktail list being launched end August) with premium Tequila, fresh chilli, cucumber extract, burned lime and ginger beer; a Breakfast Martini served with melba toast or a southern classic with a twist served in a jar.
“Someone would think it sounds like war,” he laughs, “but after tasting it I can assure you, the guest will have another three or four after the first one!”