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the all ages cocktail hour

Cocktail is a strange word, and cocktail hour is a rather odd tradition. For those that do not drink alcohol, they are both entirely useless, or are they?

After an in depth study by David Wondrich, the actual word cocktail is not in reference to alcohol, but to ginger and cayenne pepper! In the mid to late 1700s, ginger was placed up a horse's derriere when put on display for sale as it caused it to cock its tail in the air showing it to be lively and spirited. It was further defined in the book Sportsman's Slang by John Badcock as being one and the same word; cock-tail was ginger. One of the first recorded uses of the word cock-tail came from a bar tab for a ginger infused beverage, but the ticket had a very low price suggesting the beverage did not contain alcohol!

The term was used in 1790, in a satirical English newspaper as an accusation that a clergyman had used all the ginger and pepper in town to cause the voters of a particular Sir Vanneck to cock their tails. The word continues in a colorful history of ironic banter circling bars, booze and business. It eventually made its way as a set term for mixed beverages.

The hour is a tradition began in Britain due to exhaustion from the day. It was a way of moving up the work day clock with an obligatory rest before dinner with a drink in hand. Though the idea was more for tea, times changed and the drinks developed. Cocktail hour as we know it today was fully formed in New York City and recorded as early as 1895 in the World Herald in a discussion about the difficulty in procuring and actual unmanliness of drinking tea during cocktail hour. It had become a time for alcohol.

This summer we say bring back the cocktail hour in its former glory of ginger and pepper! Create the time in your evening, after work but before dinner, to sit and relax with a cool beverage that invigorates and cocks the tail. The truth is very few of us drink enough liquids in our day, and with the summer heat we are in need of a little extra. Plain water can get downright boring, so spice it up.

Whether setting this time aside for yourself or making it a family and friends affair, put together something delicious that will quench your thirst and leave you wanting more. It's all about infusing the water. You're not making a smoothie. Ingredients should be added to your pitcher of water no less than four hours before, but the day before yields the best flavor. For a refreshing drink that soothes the stomach and helps with inflammation in the body, try mixing sliced pineapple, ginger and crushed mint. A bright summer blend option is thinly sliced oranges with lightly crushed raspberries. For a lighter take on a Bloody Mary, try dicing tomatoes, celery and sweet bell peppers and letting them infuse the water.

Just as a bar has endless concoctions, so does your cocktail hour. Any combination of vegetables, fruits, herbs or spices can make your drinks unforgettable. 

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