How Do You Spell ”Cocktail“? German Encyclopedias of the 19th Century (pt. 1 of 2)

The Origins of Cocktail Culture in Germany

[German version]

In the second half of the 19th century, “cocktail“ became increasingly established as an entry in German dictionaries. — ”Cocktail“ was also used pejoratively in English as a term transferred from horse breeding for people who pretend to be something better. — The beginnings of cocktail culture in Germany are closely linked to German emigration to the USA. The exchange took place in both directions. — In Germany, the term “cocktail“ was the object of linguistic and culinary interest on the one hand, and of a nationalistically influenced linguistic purism on the other. — Until the late 19th century, the cocktail seems to have been conveyed only literarily; references to cocktails actually drunk or prepared in Germany are not initially found in encyclopedias.

While at the end of the 19th century one was still far from being able to pick up a cocktail book from Germany, the cocktail had made its way into a very special literary genre: the ecyclopedia. Hardly any other text form may have suited the Prussian civil servant’s soul so well, so that a flourishing lexicographical landscape emerged, which pounced on the most diverse topics with the most diverse objectives. Some of its prominent representatives are still etched in the collective memory today: in 1812, the first volume of the “Conversations-Lexicon oder encyclopädisches Handwörterbuch für gebildete Stände“ appeared, which was to become a status symbol of the educated middle classes in the 20th century under the name of its editor Friedrich Arnold Brockhaus (leatherbound, please). Carl Joseph Meyer achieved a similar feat in 1840 with his “Grosses Conversations-Lexicon für die gebildeten Stände”, which today graces flea markets in the garish orange paperback edition of 1981 as “Meyers Enzyklopädisches Lexikon in 25 Bänden”. In addition to collecting fairy tales, the brothers Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm also had time to publish the first delivery of their etymologically oriented “Deutsches Wörterbuch“ in 1852. The last and 130th volume of the so-called “Grimm’s Dictionary“ was not completed until 1961.

Linguistics: The Cocktail in German English Studies

Alongside these prominent examples, specialised encyclopedias appeared which, in keeping with the smaller target group, found less circulation. Thus, although English studies in Germany in the mid-19th century could look back on a certain tradition since the establishment of the first chair of English in Göttingen in 1737, it was, like so many disciplines, little noticed outside academia. In 1861, the philologist Ludwig Herrig published the following entry in the series of articles “Beiträge zur englischen Lexikographie“ in his specialist journal “Archiv für das Studium der neueren Sprachen und Literaturen“ [Herrig 1861, 118]:

cocktail, a disparaging expression, perhaps taken from horses. Macm. Mag. Dec. 1859 p. 101. But servitors are gentlemen , I suppose? — a good deal of the cock-tail about them , I should think. — a c.[ocktail] = brandy, bitters and sugar, Austr. Fowler S. L. p. 53.

One should not be discouraged by the joy of abbreviations. For our considerations, the second meaning given is decisive, which explains the cocktail in a shortened form according to its main components. The definition comes from the 1859 book “Southern Lights and Shadows“ by the British writer Frank Fowler, in which he reports, among other things, on the drinking habits of the inhabitants of Sydney. In the passage quoted, he gives similarly brief definitions for a whole dozen mixed drinks, including julep, smash and spider [Fowler 1859, 53]. The reference to America is missing both in Fowler and in the cited contribution to English lexicography, which identifies the cocktail as Australian.

As for the primary meaning given, it is perhaps surprising that “cocktail“ could also be used as a derogatory term for a person. The short story “Tom Brown at Oxford“ by Thomas Hughes, published in Macmillan’s Magazine in 1860, is about scholarship students at university who supposedly thought they were better than others [Hughes 1860, 101]. The text was a sequel to his successful 1857 novella “Tom Brown’s School Days”, which we will encounter subsequently. “Thieme-Magnusson. Neues praktisches Taschenwörterbuch der englischen und deutschen Sprache“ of 1866 even gives as the exclusive meaning of cocktail: “Blendling; ungehobelte Mensch” (“Imposter; uncouth person”) [Wessely 1866, 52]. This usage did not ultimately prevail in English usage.[1] The term for a half-breed horse that was given a cock-tail for the purpose of more elegant posture by shortening its tail and, at worst, even placing a peeled ginger tuber in the poor animal’s anus, had thus been metaphorically transferred to people.

As a serious Anglicist in Germany, one had to know how to distinguish good British English from the degenerate American variety. To this end, Dr. Friedrich Köhler also published his “Wörterbuch der Americanismen“ with Reclam-Verlag in 1866. Alongside bombo, cobbler and julep, cocktail is listed as an Americanism with the following explanation [Köhler 1866, 30]:

Getränk aus Korn- oder Wachholderbranntwein, Zucker und ein wenig Wasser.

Drink made from grain or juniper brandy, sugar and a little water.

Grain brandy will hardly refer to the German Korn and vodka cannot be meant either. A translation of whiskey as a grain-based distillate would be conceivable, but for one thing Köhler knows whiskey (e.g. in the article ”Julep“). For another, the book is essentially an abridged translation of the third edition of John Russell Bartlett’s ”Dictionary of Americanisms. A Glossary Of Words And Phrases“ from 1860, which explains the cocktail as follows [Bartlett 1860, 90]: “A stimulating beverage, made of brandy or gin, mixed with sugar and a very little water.“ Presumably a careless mistake is the conclusive explanation. After all, Köhler’s “juniper brandy“ is found here again in the form of gin. Unfortunately, he did not include Bartlett’s entry on “Liquor“ in his book, as there is a list of almost 60 drinks that were served “in fashionable bar-rooms in the United States”, including various juleps, cobblers, punches and drinks such as “I.O.U.”, “Knickerbocker“ and the “Cocktail“ [ibid., 246].

In 1871, the Berlin publishing house G. Langenscheidt, whose name was to become synonymous with foreign language dictionaries, published an “Englisch-deutsches Supplement-Lexikon“ under the aegis of the grammar school teacher Dr. Adalbert Hoppe. In his introduction, he complained that there were gaps in the existing dictionaries, which he wanted to fill with his volume. In the four columns that Hoppe added to “Cock.”, the compound noun with “-tail”, which is the subject here, is also found. The entry is hardly legible with its abbreviations, but because of the considerable amount of material offered, it is quoted in full with its nine references [Hoppe 1871, 78 f.]:

Cocktail, s. (kŏk-tēl) »the half-bred English hunter«. R. L. L. p. 341: the gallant, impatient, foaming, champing, space-devouring, curveting Cocktail. — M. M. Dec. 1859, p. 101: »but servitors are gentlemen, I suppose?« — »A good deal of the Cock-tail about them, I should tink« [sic]. — Str. giebt: Th. Hood, Tylney Hall c. 10: one begins his course on a Cocktail, another on a galloway. — In Australien: a cocktail = brandy, bitters, and sugar. F. S. L. p. 53. In Amerika Getränk aus Pfeffermünz. Cooper. the Spy p. 181. — Marryat, Diary in America c. 7. — T. Br. p. 109: Here, Bill, drink some Cocktail [here, where the schoolboys drink it and offer it to the porter, hardly a drink made of distilled water].

First of all, it is about the term ”cocktail“ for half-breeds in horse breeding. The quotation lacks the source reference because Herrig already had to refer to handwritten notes of a colleague in a supplement of 1861 (from which Hoppe makes use here) [Herrig 1862, 348]. The formulation comes from a much-noted article by Charles James Apperley from 1832 in the Quarterly Review [Apperley 1832, 221]:

True it is that at the present time, every Leicestershire hunter is not thorough-bred; but what is termed the cock-tail, or half-bred horse of this day, is a very different animal from that of a hundred years back. […] Mares of this variety put to thorough-bred stallions, and their produce crossed with pure blood, create the sort of animal that comes now under the denomination of the half-bred English hunter, or cock-tail.

The text is about Hunter horses, a utility crossbreed from the 18th century, mainly used for drag hunting. The details of horse breeding need not interest us. It becomes apparent, however, that the cocktail was not an exotic but a common term, at least in English horsemanship. Hoppe supports this with a short quotation from Charles Reade’s 1959 novella “Love Me Little, Love Me Long“ about an apparently quite wild horse on which Lucy Fountain, the main character of the story, goes for a ride (“R. L. L.“) [Reade 1859, 353]. This is followed by the Hughes quotation from Macmillan’s Magazine about pretentious scholars, already familiar from Herrig (“M. M.“ ) [Hughes 1860, 101]. The following literary reference, taken from Thomas Hood’s 1834 novel Tylney Hall, also refers to a horse [Hood 1834, 103], rendered “Karrengaul“ (“cart horse”) in Robert Grant’s 1842 German translation of the book [Hood 1842, 100]. Hoppe took the reference from Franz Heinrich Strathmann’s “Beiträge zu einem Wörterbuche der Englischen Sprache“ from 1855 (“Str.“) [Strathmann 1855, 112]. But enough about horses and schnooks.

With regard to the drink made of “brandy, bitters, and sugar”, Hoppe, like Herrig, refers to Fowler’s “Southern Lights and Shadows“ of 1859 (“F. S. L.“) [Fowler 1859, 53] and emphasises quite correctly that the text reflects Australian conditions. It seems bizarre, however, that in the following he stresses the difference to the American cocktail, which is a “Getränk aus Pfeffermünz“ (“drink made of peppermint“). The remark cannot be reconciled with the cocktail books that were available when the Supplement-Lexikon appeared in 1871, as they do not offer a cocktail recipe with mint. In the novel “The Spy. A Tale of the Neutral Ground“ by James Fenimore Cooper, which Hoppe references here, is the passage, famous among mixographers, about the pithy innkeeper Betty Flanagan, who is said to have invented the cocktail in 1780 during the American Revolutionary War in Four Corners, which is identified with present-day Elmsford, New York. The book dates from 1821 and is thus almost four decades older than Jerry Thomas’ “Bar Tender’s Guide”. It is considered to be the first novel in American literature set in the newly-founded United States to achieve international recognition. The first translations appeared only a few years later.[2] In the German version by Carl Kolb from 1841, the passage in question reads as follows [Cooper 1822, 237 resp. Cooper 1841]:

Added to these, Betty had the merit of being the inventor of that beverage which is so well known, at the present hour, to all the patriots who make a winter’s march between the commercial and political capitals of this great state, and which is distinguished by the name of »cock-tail.« Elizabeth Flanagan was peculiarly well qualified, by education and circumstances, to perfect this improvement in liquors, having been literally brought up on its principal ingredient, and having acquired from her Virginian customers the use of mint, from its flavor in a julep to its height of renown in the article in question.

Hiezu kommt noch, daß Betty das Verdienst hatte, die Erfinderin jenes Getränkes zu seyn, welches bis auf die gegenwärtige Stunde allen Patrioten, welche eine Winterreise zwischen den Haupt- und Handelsstädten dieses großen Staates machen, unter dem bezeichnenden Namen Cocktail (Hahnenschwanz) bekannt ist. Elisabeth Flanagan war sowohl durch ihre Erziehung, als durch andere Umstände ausgezeichnet geeignet, diese Verbesserung des Branntweins in höchster Vollkommenheit in’s Werk zu setzen, denn einmal war sie buchstäblich in fleißiger Benützung des Hauptbestandtheils ihrer Erfindung aufgewachsen, und dann hatte ihre Bekanntschaft mit den Virginiern sie auf den Wohlschmack, welchen die Münze den Kühltränken verleiht, aufmerksam gemacht, wodurch sie in den Stand gesetzt wurde, durch eine weise Verbindung dieser Elemente den fraglichen Artikel erst recht zu seiner Berühmtheit zu bringen.

Let us briefly rejoice in the fact that “cocktail“ is mentioned as a drink in a German book as early as 1841, forty years before Harry Johnson. The only older translation that could be obtained offers “Hahnenschwänzel“ (literally “cock’s tail“) without rendering the English term [Cooper 1826, 80]. The julep is well known and Cooper also correctly reproduced the fact that the mint variant originated in Virginia [Wondrich & Rothbaum 2022, 398]. It would now be easy to shake one’s head at the fact that he transferred the mint (“Münze“) from one to the other, and even more so that Hoppe treated this episode from a novel as a historical source for his dictionary.

This is certainly not methodologically clean, but David Wondrich has shown that the character Betty Flanagan may have a historical model. As early as the 1870s, the American press had picked up on a local tradition, from Lewiston, New York, about 630 km northwest of Elmsford, which identified the innkeeper from Cooper’s novel with a Catherine “Kitty“ Hustler. The latter had married her husband Thomas in Philadelphia in 1777, who fought for independence from the British Crown in the Continental Army until 1802. Afterwards, they were both involved in the founding of the village of Lewiston on the banks of the distant Niagara River and ran a tavern there. Cooper may have stayed there in 1809 when he was part of an expedition under Captain M. T. Woolsey on Lake Ontario, years before he began writing “The Spy”.

Unfortunately, it is not known what Kitty Hustler did between 1777 and 1802 or where she stayed. But since Philadelphia was occupied by British troops from September 1777 to June 1778 (during which time the famous Liberty Bell was hidden from them), she could have gone to Elmsford, 200 km to the north, and run a tavern there just like Betty Flanagan in the novel. Thus, Kitty would have arrived at the Niagara River only with a stopover. In fact, many early cocktail references point to the Hudson Valley, where Elmsford is located. Mint as an ingredient is not attested elsewhere, but then again, the cocktail was not immediately subject to the strict rules we find pronounced in Jerry Thomas 1862. Moreover, Cooper sticks to historical truth when he associates the Mint Julep with Virginia. “In short, Catherine Hustler’s role in, if not creating, then naming and propagating the cocktail cannot be ruled out“ [Wondrich & Rothbaum 2022, 283]. However, there is no evidence either that early cocktails contained mint, that Kitty Hustler ever ran a tavern in the Hudson Valley, or that James Fenimore Cooper ever stayed at her place.

Let’s end the visit to Betty Flanagan and come back to the starting point, the entry in Hoppe’s English-German Supplement Lexicon. The 1839 account of the voyage to America by the English naval officer and writer Frederick Marryat, which already appeared in German translation in 1845, will be discussed here in a separate article on cocktails in 19th century German travelogues. The fact that Marryat wrote “I really cannot remember“ perhaps does say something about cocktails [Marryat 1839, 32]. Hoppe’s entry concludes with a reference to Thomas Hughes’s 1857 debut novella “Tom Brown’s School Days“ (“T. Br.“). The text about the adventures of a boy at Rugby School in Warwickshire was very successful, was made into film several times and published internationally as school reading for English lessons, including in 1863 by Dr. A. Riedl for German pupils. In the scene quoted, the boys celebrate their winning rugby match with exuberant singing as they offer Bill, the under-porter of the schoolhouse, a cocktail so that he will not clear away the tables yet [Hughes 1863, 109]:

»Here, Bill, drink some cocktail.« »Sing us a song, old boy.« »Don’t you wish you may get the table?« Bill drank the proffered cocktail not unwillingly, and putting down the empty glass, remonstrated. »Now gentlemen, there’s only ten minutes to prayers, and we must get the hall straight.«

Obviously, Hoppe cannot imagine alcohol in children’s hands and Riedl also does not give more than “eine Art Getränk” (“a kind of drink“) as an explanation [Hughes 1863, xlii]. For one thing, the text does not say that the children drink themselves, so that only the question remains how they would have got hold of the alcohol. For another, in 1830s England, in which the book is set, it must not yet have been a matter of course that children were not given alcohol. Why then a cocktail? The 1857 text remains a little dark at this point, but should not detain us further in our observations on cocktails in German encyclopedias.

Culinary: The Cocktail in Encyclopedias of Cuisine and Gastronomy

Of course, the object behind the word “cocktail“ was also seen and lexicographically evaluated as a (marginal) phenomenon of the culinary arts. From a cultural studies perspective, Johann Riem had already catalogued “Die Getränke der Menschen“ in 1803, but was thus probably too early to have even heard of a cocktail. Odo Staab even invented his own term for the science of drinks in 1807 (which unfortunately did not catch on) and published his “Potographie, oder Die Beschreibung der Getränke aller Völker in der Welt”. The prefix “poto-“ corresponds to the ancient Greek ποτόν, “drink” Latin potio, English “potion”. Unfortunately, the beautiful term in Staab’s book brings us no closer to the cocktail than to the julep, which is presented as a non-alcoholic drink of Persian origin [Staab 1807, 83 f.].

However, the lexicographic output from the narrow potographic perspective – to use the term once – did not come close to the numerous culinary and gastronomic dictionaries. With the “Universal-Lexikon der Kochkunst“ (“Universal Dictionary of the Art of Cookery”), first published in 1878 in two volumes, “which could not be missing in the German household at the turn of the century”,[3] the balancing act was attempted between thematic specialisation on the one hand and – as the title shows – completeness on the other. If the field of culinary arts is so broad, drinks cannot be missing. Thus, in the third edition of 1886, we find modern American drinks such as mint julep and sherry cobbler alongside entries such as grog, punch and Knickebein, which were quite familiar to the German reading public at the end of the 19th century. Even turning the page to the letter C leads to success [Universal-Lexikon 1 1886, 186]:

Cock-tail. Ein in Amerika sehr beliebtes Getränk, eine Art Grog, welchen man aus Brandy (Franzbranntwein), Bitter-Liqueur, Wasser und Zucker zusammensetzt; zuweilen wird anstatt des Bittern auch Pfeffermünzliqueur genommen.

Cock-tail. A very popular drink in America, a kind of grog, which is made up of french brandy, bitter liqueur, water and sugar; sometimes peppermint liqueur is used instead of bitters.

Even today, one could probably find recipes that are further from the truth than this article from a German dictionary. The grog comparison is not so wrong when you realise that cold grog was also drunk: rum or another spirit, sugar and water. The use of bitters was correctly identified, whereas the substitution of peppermint liqueur was surprising. We have seen that Betty Flanagan prepared her cocktails with mint, but even then there is no mention of mint liqueur. Are we looking at an inaccurate takeover from the novel here? Or from Hoppe’s supplement dictionary? If someone should have recreated a drink according to this recipe, one can only hope that the person came up with the idea of using ice on his own.

Two years later, the entry from the Universal-Lexikon appears almost word for word on the other side of the Atlantic in “Deutsch-amerikanisches illustrirtes Kochbuch“ (“German-American Illustrated Cookbook“) by a certain Charles Hellstern, published by Gustav Ferdinand Heerbrandt in New York. Heerbrandt was a typical “Forty-Eighter”, i.e. one of those Germans who came to the United States in the wake of the failed revolution of 1848/49. He had been imprisoned in his homeland for being guilty of democratic “incitement“ in his hometown Reutlingen,[4] but was able to emigrate in 1850. Once in America, he resumed his profession as a publisher and brought out publications such as the “Schwäbische Wochenschau“ in New York, where there was already a strong presence of German emigrants.

In addition to news from the old homeland, they had an appetite for familiar tastes and at the same time wanted to acquire American culinary skills. They already had access to German-language cookbooks published in the USA, but Charles Hellstern, who, according to his own credentials, had experience “as chef to the Princess Orloff in Paris and cook in the most important hotels in Europe and in the best clubs in America“ [Hellstern 1888, Introduction], sought to combine both worlds, the old and the new. So it says under no. 2030 [ibid., 407]:

Cocktail. Eine Art kalter Grog, welchen man aus Brandy, Bitter-Liqueur, Eis und Zucker zusammensetzt; zuweilen wird statt des Bitteren auch Pfeffermünz-Liqueur genommen. Man hat Brandy-Cocktail, Whisky-Cocktail, Gin-Cocktail u. s. w., je nachdem man zu einem Glase dieses Getränkes Cognac oder anderen Branntwein nimmt. Das Verfahren ist folgendes: Man thut in ein Glas etwa 2-3 Eßlöffel Bitterliqueur, 2-3 Eßlöffel klargekochten Zuckersirup, 1 Weinglas Cognac, Gin oder Whisky und ein Stück dünn abgeschälte Zitronenschale, füllt das Glas zu einem Drittel mit gestoßenen Eis, schüttet das Getränk einigemale hin und her, seiht es durch und gießt es in ein großes Weinglas. Statt Bitterliqueur kann man guten Pomeranzenliqueur oder Magenbitter nehmen.

Cocktail. A kind of cold grog made up of brandy, bitter liqueur, ice and sugar; sometimes peppermint liqueur is used instead of the bitter. One has brandy cocktail, whisky cocktail, gin cocktail, etc., depending on whether one takes cognac or other spirits with a glass of this drink. The procedure is as follows: Put 2-3 tablespoons of bitter liqueur, 2-3 tablespoons of clear sugar syrup, 1 wine glass of cognac, gin or whisky and a piece of thinly peeled lemon peel into a glass, fill the glass to a third with crushed ice, pour the drink back and forth a few times, strain it and pour it into a large wine glass. Instead of bitter liqueur, you can use good bitter orange liqueur or bitters.

Even though the reference to the popularity of the drink in America is missing (since the readers were on the spot), the first sentence is almost identical to the entry in the Universal-Lexikon. At least ice is called for here instead of water, which could possibly be explained by the better availability in the States. But how does the strong similarity between the two definitions come about? Either both authors had drawn from the same source, i.e. either from Cooper’s novel or a text that is not available to us. Or Hellstern used the Universal-Lexikon. His article is considerably longer, but basically largely redundant: a list of various cocktails is followed by the (gruesome) recipe, which makes the list of ingredients in the first sentence superfluous – especially since the lemon peel is still missing there. Particularly striking is the repeated indication of an alternative for the bitters, which in the second run is not “peppermint liqueur“ but “bitter orange liqueur or bitters”. It gives the impression that Hellstern was missing the information on the correct preparation in the Universal-Lexikon entry and therefore used at least a second source for his text, but did not finally harmonise his finished entry.

What Hellstern writes about “Tom and Jerry“ is also almost identical in wording to the Universal-Lexikon, especially since this time a recipe is also included there [Universal-Lexikon 2 1886, 553 / Hellstern 1888, 406]:

Tom and Jerry. Dieses beliebte amerikanische Getränk ist eine Art Eierpunsch; man schlägt vier Eier mit sechs gehäuften Eßlöffeln Zucker zu Schaum, gießt sechs Weingläser feinen Rum und 1/2 Liter siedendes Wasser allmählich hinzu vermischt alles gut durch Hin- und Herschütten in zwei Gefäßen und servirt den Punsch in Gläsern, wobei man auf die Oberfläche jedes Glases etwas Muskatnuß reibt.

Tom and Jerry. Eine Art Eierpunsch. Man schlägt vier Eier mit 6 gehäuften Eßlöffeln voll Zucker zu Schaum, gießt 6 Weingläser feinen Rum und ½ Quart siedendes Wasser allmählich hinzu, vermischt alles gut durch hin- und herschütteln in 2 Gefäßen und servirt den Punsch in Gläsern, wobei man auf die Oberfläche jedes Glases etwas Muskatnuß reibt.

Tom and Jerry. This popular American drink is a kind of eggnog; four eggs are beaten to a froth with six heaped tablespoons of sugar, six wine glasses of fine rum and 1/2 litre of boiling water are gradually added, everything is mixed well by pouring it back and forth in two vessels, and the punch is served in glasses, with a little nutmeg rubbed on the surface of each glass.

Tom and Jerry. A kind of eggnog. Four eggs are beaten to a froth with 6 heaped tablespoons of sugar, 6 wine glasses of fine rum and ½ quart of boiling water are gradually added, everything is mixed well by shaking it back and forth in two vessels, and the punch is served in glasses, with a little nutmeg rubbed on the surface of each glass.

The reference to the popularity in America is again missing in Hellstern’s work. Since the presumed original already contained preparation instructions, he did not have to add anything. The two instructions, however, diverge by a single letter: while the Universal-Lexikon describes the bar technique of throwing from one vessel to another (“Hin- und Herschütten“), in Hellstern it is shaking in two vessels turned inside each other (“hin- und herschütteln“). Apart from some simplifications made in the recipe, the absence of cinnamon, cloves and allspice as well as the 2:3 ratio of egg to sugar point to an origin from Harry Johnson’s “Bartender’s Manual”. This also applies to the tossing, as it explicitly states in the German text [Johnson 1882, 110 resp. 32]:

dann nehme man ein zweites Glas oder Mug und giesse das Getränk ungefähr 4 bis 5 Mal von einem Glas in’s andere in langen Strömen, streue dann ein wenig Muskatnuss darauf und servire es.

then poor [sic] in the mixture from one mug tot he other, three or four times, until the above ingredients are thoroughly mixed, grate a little nutmeg on top and serve.

Perhaps Hellstern made a careless mistake, or perhaps he suspected one because he was more familiar with shaking drinks in the States. In his entry on the cocktail, on the other hand, one “pours“ the drink and does not shake it. In any case, the weak parallels to Harry Johnson’s Tom and Jerry recipe cannot serve as proof that the Dean’s book was read in Germany.

Hellstern also follows the Universal-Lexikon’s entry “Mint Julep, amerikanischer”, which he admittedly only calls “Mint Julep”. Other entries, such as the Sherry Cobbler, are more independent, so that the overall picture remains unclear. Nevertheless, the suspicion remains – as long as no common, older source can be found – that Charles Hellstern had an edition of the Leipzig “Universal-Lexikon der Kochkunst“ at his disposal in America, which he used to introduce American mixed drinks to his German-speaking readers. (It is a little bit as if Dale DeGroff had copied from Charles Schumann).

According to the understanding of gender roles at the time, the target group was the German housewife, whether in Missouri or in Magdeburg. Unfortunately, one cannot tell from a dictionary how often it was deliberately opened under ”cocktail” or whether the entry actually induced someone to offer guests such a drink. But the article in the Leipzig “Universal-Lexikon der Kochkunst“ has inspired at least one other editor to come up with his own interpretation, as will be shown in a moment.

Crossover: Culinary Linguistics

In the turbulent 19th century, which saw revolutions as well as nation states in Europe, and which saw the collapse of the old order of estates of the realm as well as the rise of the bourgeoisie, dictionaries with a culinary orientation could also be made useful to a quasi-political agenda. Concern for the preservation of the German language in its unadulterated form always brought up culture pessimists who were fond of writing. In the 18th and 19th centuries, German cuisine had accumulated no small number of terms from French. This is not surprising, since it was the gourmands in France who gave birth to the modern art of cooking and are still, in the eyes of many, the undisputed masters in this field.

In other areas, things were much worse with our western neighbour. A high point of the “hereditary enmity“ between today’s friends was the Franco-German War of 1870/71, which the Germans were able to decide in their favour. It culminated in the founding of the German Empire and the proclamation of Kaiser Wilhelm I on 18 January 1871 in the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles, the magnificent palace of Louis XIV near Paris. The provocative gesture illustrates how great the resentment was. Hatred of the other was the flip side of a new, exuberant national consciousness of the first. Out of this pernicious spirit, a Düsseldorf head waiter named M. Lunnebach, for example, published a “Anfang zur Reinigung der Muttersprache von allen fremden Brocken“ (“Beginning for the Purification of the Mother Tongue from all Foreign Lumps“) in the very year the Reich was founded. The book contained German alternatives for over 1,400 mostly French food names, which became, as it were, tools of his almost fanatical linguistic purism [Lunnebach 1871, 3]:

It must therefore be the wish of every friend of the fatherland that we should be freed from everything French that has crept into German custom, costume and language, and that German should again come to the fore in its place.

Obviously, such efforts were of limited success, as we still speak of brioche and sauce today instead of “Apostelkuchen“ and “Tunke“ [Lunnebach 1871, 12, 64]. Nonetheless, so-called Verdeutschungswörterbücher (germanising dictionaries) were subsequently produced for various subjects and professions, including in 1889 for the culinary field by the renowned Dresden chef Ernst Lößnitzer. Even though he is less polemical than Lunnebach, his work begins with an “Exhortation to German Cooks”, whose language has been “contaminated by the French poison“ [Lößnitzer 1889, V]. The preface, which is dated autumn 1888, also contains a homage to “our youthful, sublime Emperor William II“ [ibid., X f.],[5] who had only completed the Year of the Three Kaisers on 15 June, after Frederick III had died as the successor to William I after only 99 days in office.

On 248 pages, Lößnitzer’s Verdeutschungswörterbuch offers a simple, alphabetically sorted list of foreign-language food names. Among them are occasional names of mixed drinks such as grog (“Rumtrank“), mint julep (“Pfeffermünz-Eistrank“) or flip (“englisches Warmbier“). Some of the terms are bizarre or seem to be wrong, for example, a “Weinkühler“ is not what one would think of today. As backward-looking as the book may seem from today’s perspective, the compilation is modern, as the following brief entry proves [ibid., 43]:

Cock tail, engl., Pfeffermünzgrog.

Cock tail, engl., peppermint-grog.

The definition could only have come from the pen of a non-initiated person who had never drunk a cocktail, let alone prepared one. The assumption suggests that Lößnitzer also picked up the third edition of the Universal-Lexikon published two years earlier and reduced the already brief explanation that cocktail is “a kind of grog”, which is sometimes also prepared with “peppermint liqueur“ instead of bitters, to “peppermint-grog”.

It should be emphasised once again that the purpose of the Verdeutschungswörterbuch was not to explain the meaning of the catchwords in terms of content, but merely to offer German alternatives for foreign-language terms in the kitchen.[6] Against this background, one has to wonder whether Lößnitzer assumed that the “cocktail“ might well be encountered by one or the other of his colleagues in the course of his work. To fill up the book with exotic terms that did not occur in the German gastronomic landscape of his time would hardly have been purposeful against the background of the already great wealth of material. On the other hand, it is possible that he wanted to enhance his work through ostentatious modernism and that he therefore had no idea what he was copying from the Universal-Lexikon or what might even have originated with Cooper’s Betty Flanagan.

While here, as in the other dictionaries under consideration, the cocktail seems to be little more than an ominous term, it takes on an incomparably clearer form in the lexicographical work of one of the authors involved in Lößnitzer’s Verdeutschungswörterbuch: The Leipzig publisher Dr. Paul Martin Blüher was a meticulous collector and completist who threw numerous and valuable spotlights on the emergence of cocktail culture in Germany on the eve of the 20th century – as will be shown shortly in the continuation article on German lexicons of the 19th century.


[1] The Concise Oxford Dictionary, 7th ed., 1982, 179, assigns the meaning “upstart” to the “earlier senses”.

[2] James Fenimore Cooper, Der Spion, oder Das neutrale Land. Ein Gemälde nordamerikanischer Sitte und Natur zur Zeit des Freiheitskampfes, Leipzig: Focke 1824; Der Spion: Roman des Amerikaners Cooper aus dem nordamerikanischen Revolutionskriege, Übers. L. Hermann, Leipzig: Ernst Klein 1825; Cooper 1826.

[3] Frohe Gemüter, in: Spiegel 7/1989,, Retrieval on 07.08.2023. There is a modern reprint of the third edition that attributes the original to Richard Gollmer, without the name appearing in the book. Gollmer was 20 years old at the time of the publication of the 3rd edition, which eliminates him at least for the publication of the first two editions of 1878 and 1881.

[4] Landesarchiv Baden-Württemberg, Abt. Hauptstaatsarchiv Stuttgart, Findbuch E 271 c Kriegsdepartement, 1849-1869,, Retrieval on 11.08.2023.

[5] Wilhelm II himself apparently enjoyed a cocktail (“kochtael”) on 19 January 1895 at a dinner on the USS New York to celebrate the opening of the Kiel Canal. Cf. „Wanted Another Cocktail”, in: New York Journal, Nachdruck in Boston Globe, 03.07.1898, 15, zitiert nach: Greg Moore, The Kaiser and the cocktails, in: Cocktail 101, 10.01.2012, Retrieval on 07.08.2023.

[6] A similar thrust is taken by an article from the magazine “Hansa. Deutsche nautische Zeitschrift”, in which the naval station priest Gustav Goedel declares the enforcement of the sailor’s language with English terms to be dispensable, since most English words would come from German anyway [Goedel 1893, 498]: „Wenn wir von einigen modernen Wörter wie bulleye, pantry, cocktail und allenfalls noch steward absehen, die erst in sehr späten Tagen durch den Verkehr mit der englischen Marine und den Besuch englischer Kolonieen aufgekommen sind, so können wir mit gutem Gewissen sagen, dass das, was mir mit solcher Zuversicht als geborgte englische Waare bezeichnet worden war, altdeutscher, ureigener, ehrwürdiger Besitz ist.“ His “Etymologisches Wörterbuch der deutschen Seemannssprache” (Etymological Dictionary of the German Maritime Language) of 1902 unfortunately did not contain an entry for “Cocktail” [Goedel 1902].


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *