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5 Fun and classy ways to celebrate World Cocktail Day on 13 May

Put your mixology skills to the test... or simply head to your nearest cocktail bar!

by: Leah van Deventer | 12 May 2017

World Cocktail Day is celebrated annually on 13 May, as this was the day, way back in 1806, that the cocktail was first officially defined.

A little history

In language typical of the time, Harry Croswell – the editor of New York tabloid The Balance and Columbian Repository – determined a cocktail to be ‘a stimulating liquor, composed of spirits of any kind, sugar, water and bitters.’

As for the origin of the word itself, legend has it that it came from the name used for a mixed-breed racehorse. These hybrids often had tails that stuck up like those of cocks’ (as in the birds), and since cocktails (the drinks) are a hodgepodge of ingredients, they got called this too.

But enough about history and etymology, here’s how you can celebrate the day:

1. Drink a professionally crafted cocktail
South Africa has some killer cocktail bars, but more importantly it has some spectacular drink slingers. On World Cocktail Day, skip the sugary, technicolour nasties that will give you a babalas before you even get tipsy and put yourself in the hands of a pro.

In Cape Town, you’ll find Marshall Siavash at The House of Machines, Travis Kuhn and Rudi de Vos at The Polynesian Pearl Diver, Cameron Hawkins and Melrick Harrison at Orphanage Cocktail Emporium, AJ Snetler at The Twankey Bar and Johnny Bezuidenhout at Arcade.

Joburg’s finest – Julian Short, Jody Rahme and George Hunter – are the residents at Sin+Tax, while the Durban heat can be blamed on Bruce Dorfling and Michael Stephenson shaking it at Lucky Shaker. (Some of these bars will be having World Cocktail Day specials – check out their social media platforms for info.)

2. Throw a cocktail party
Round up your party peeps for a night of cocktail-induced debauchery at your place. For a cover charge, get everyone to bring a bottle of hard tack and a mixer or garnish, and see who can invent the best cocktail out of the spoils. But before you do that, you should…

3. Spoil yourself to some slick bar tools
If you love making cocktails at home, do yourself a solid and invest in some cool tools. I love the stuff at The Spirit Merchant Trading Company, which ranges from old school to hip (or maybe that’s all the same thing).

4. Get your hands on a classic cocktail book
These beauties will not only teach you how to make mind-blowing drinks, but they offer a window into the evolution of cocktail culture.

- Bartenders Guide by Jerry Thomas (1862)
- Stuart’s Fancy Drinks And How To Mix Them by Thomas Stuart (1896)
- The Savoy Cocktail Book By Harry Craddock (1930)
- Famous New Orleans Drinks And How To Mix Them By Stanley Arthur (1947)
- Trader Vic’s Bartender's Guide by Trader Vic (1947)
- South American Gentleman's Companion: Being An Exotic Drinking Book Or, Up & Down The Andes With Jigger, Beaker And Flask By Charles H Baker (1951)

5. Watch a cocktail-related movie

Pop some corn and settle down to rewatch the all-time classic cocktail film, Cocktail, or learn a bit more about the current cocktail scene with the doccie Hey Bartender. Otherwise, pick a few of the below flicks and watch them while sipping on the cocktail they feature.

Dr No – Martini: shaken, not stirred

The Grand Budapest Hotel – Champagne Cup

It’s a Wonderful Life – Flaming Rum Punch

Some Like It Hot – Manhattan

Crazy Stupid Love – Old Fashioned

Live and Let Die – Sazerac

Sex and The City – Cosmopolitan

Breakfast at Tiffany’s – Mississippi Punch

Amélie – Mulled Wine


Find out more about Cape Town’s cocktail bars here, and Durban’s cocktail bars here.

Get more boozy news from Leah van Deventer on Twitter or Instagram.



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