Baton Rouge bartender Joey Goar enjoys learning about the history of cocktails and thinks others might, too.
Consequently, he has begun teaching a series of monthly classes about cocktails at The Cove, where he works. He started the series with the 1700s, the era of the punch, and plans to go through the tiki era.
“In each class, I am covering the five most popular cocktails of the time period,” Goar said. He goes over the history of each cocktail, starting with its creation and rise in popularity. He also lets the class know whether or not the drink is still around.
“I am also explaining what modern cocktails these classics have influenced,” he said. Class members sip on the cocktails while he shares the story behind each. So they don’t forget what they’ve heard, he provides everyone with a typed copy of the history, along with recipes for each cocktail.
The punch popular from the 1670s to the 1850s wasn’t like the nonalcoholic drink served at many church and social gatherings today, he explained during his first class.
Instead, many were potent batch concoctions. During a time before bottling was commonplace, they also were the easiest way to serve guests a festive drink.
The word “punch” is an adaptation of the Hindi word “paantsch,” which means five. Punch got its name because “the mixture was usually based on a recipe blending five ingredients, a spirit, sugar, lemon, water and tea or spices,” he said as he mixed up “the punch to end all punches: the Chatham Artillery Punch.”
The Chatham Artillery Punch — developed to honor an all-volunteer Savannah regiment called the Republican Blues, organized in 1808 and stationed at Fort Jackson — included seven different alcoholic beverages. Goar has scaled down his recipe to include only four: cognac, bourbon, aged rum and Champagne.
Goar also offered a look — and a taste — of the Hot Toddy, which he said is a very old drink believed to have been invented in Scotland in the early 1700s. A perfect cold weather cocktail, at its core, the Hot Toddy includes whisky, honey, lemon, spices and hot water. “The Toddy has evolved over the years and is one of only a handful of drinks whose name has survived the test of time,” he said. In the United States today, the drink is usually made with bourbon.
That first class also included a look at the Gin Julep, a drink that probably began as a medicinal concoction in the 10th century. Goar focused on the gin-based julep because it was more popular than the bourbon-based julep during the 1700s.
The 1700s also were the time the Navy grog was introduced to British Navy ships. The spirits often were over-proofed to what was called “Navy strength, 114 proof” because “apparently the British kept the booze next to the gunpowder.” If the high-proof gin or rum got into the gunpowder, the powder would still fire,” he said.
The high-proof spirits also were added to water to purify it.
The first drink to carry the name “cocktail” was one of the earlier “hair of the dog” morning-after drinks, Goar said. It was in 1806 when the word was defined as a “stimulating liquor, composed of spirits of any kind, sugar, water and bitters” in a Hudson, New York, newspaper.
The era of 1800 to 1860 was the age of the swizzle, a rum, lime and bitters drink with sugar and some sort of spice, and the Japanese cocktail, a brandy-based drink first recorded in Jerry Thomas’ 1862 bartenders’ guide, Goar said.
That also was the age of the coffee cocktail, which contains no coffee, but does include brandy, port, an egg and sugar. The Prince of Wales cocktail is named for Albert Edward, Prince of Wales, and later England’s King Edward VII, who created his own version of the cocktail. His is made with rye whiskey, fresh pineapple bitters, maraschino liqueur and Champagne.
And, New Orleans’ favorite cocktail, the Sazerac, also began in that time period. The drink was originally based on Sazerac de Forge Cognac and included water, sugar and bitters made by Antoine Peychaud, who had a New Orleans apothecary. However, when the phyloxera bug all but wiped out the grapevines of Europe, Cognac became scarce and rye whiskey was substituted in the Sazerac.
That class was followed by one on the era of the brandy crusta, which Goar said was invented in New Orleans in 1852 and is a precursor to the sidecar, which in turn led to the margarita.
That also was the era of the East India cocktail, the Barnum Was Right, the classic daiquiri, and the Clover Club, a pre-Prohibition classic. The Clover Club “dates back to a time when men were manly men and not afraid to drink a pink cocktail in public,” Goar said.
The drink is a combination of gin, dry vermouth, fresh lemon, egg white and raspberry syrup.
Goar’s next class, scheduled at 5:45 p.m. Sept. 28 at The Cove, 2561 CitiPlace Court, Suite 475, Baton Rouge, will cover the period of 1890 to Prohibition. Cost is $50 per person.
He also plans three or four more classes, including America during Prohibition, foreign countries during Prohibition, 1930 to the tiki era, and possibly the tiki era.
For more information or to sign up for the classes, call (225) 614-4062 before 4:30 p.m. or (225) 248-6457 after 4:30 p.m.