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cocktail, adj. and n.

Brit. Hear pronunciation/ˈkɒkteɪl/
U.S. Hear pronunciation/ˈkɑkˌteɪl/
Frequency (in current use):  Show frequency band information
Origin: Formed within English, by compounding. Etymons: cock n.1, cock v.1, tail n.1
Etymology: < either cock n.1 or cock v.1 + tail n.1, hence literally either ‘a tail like that of a cock’ or ‘a tail that cocks up’; probably both have influenced different uses of the word.
Compare earlier (rare) cock-tail adv.
Use denoting mixed drinks.
The origin of sense B. 3a   is much discussed and debated. Probably it developed from senses A. 1   and B. 1, the semantic motivation probably being that a mixed drink, especially one in which a spirit was diluted with other ingredients, was not a ‘thoroughbred’ or of good breeding, or otherwise lacked social propriety.
Other specific senses.
In sense A. 2   after scientific Latin fucoides caudagalli, name formerly given to the organism of which the marks were thought to be the imprint (see note at sense).
In sense A. 3   perhaps connected with the use of the Cocktail   as a nickname of the Furnace Hill area of Sheffield (which is also mentioned in the source from which quot. 1888 at sense A. 3   is taken); there is unlikely to be any connection between this sense and sense B. 3a.
 A. adj.

 a. Originally: designating a horse with a docked tail which sticks up; = cocktailed adj.1 1. Later: (of a racehorse) not thoroughbred (see note at sense B. 1b). Obsolete.

1750   London Evening-Post 17 Feb. (advt.)    A black Cock Tail Gelding, about fifteen Hands high.
?1780   Heroic Epist. Peggy Mullcahy to Æsculapius 5   Thus my love each visit pays, In chariot gilt, with cock-tail greys.
1796   J. Lawrence Philos. & Pract. Treat. Horses I. ii. 89   Those fine cock-tail nags, sold by the dealers of the present day.
1860   R. E. Egerton-Warburton Hunting Songs (ed. 2) 119   A hundred good horses, both cocktail and blood.
1875   Catal. Sale Sir G. Cholmley's Stud (Tattersall) 1   The half-bred Stock is well enough bred to win Hunters' races and Steeplechases..being of the best Cocktail strains.

1750—1875(Hide quotations)


 b. In extended use: characterized by a lack of gentility or good breeding; lacking social propriety. Obsolete.

1835   R. S. Surtees in New Sporting Mag. Mar. 320   Jorrocks. You've perhaps heard tell of the Surrey unt [i.e. hunt]? Stranger. Cock-tail affair, isn't it?
1850   Marquess of Dalhousie Let. 5 Nov. in Private Lett. (1910) 144   I was surprised to see him so cocktail; but he felt he could not face me.
1888   Pall Mall Gaz. 27 Aug. 9/1   To breed tame fowls and then blow them away from the end of their guns is snobbish and cocktail.

1835—1888(Hide quotations)


 2. Of or relating to a fossil thought to resemble the curling feathers of a cock's tail; (also) designating such a fossil. Now rare.Originally thought to have been the imprint of marine algae, these fossils are now thought to be the fossilized burrows of an extinct polychaete worm.

1840   W. W. Mather in Communication transmitting Rep. Geol. Surv. State (N.Y. State Assembly: No. 50) 237   Cocktail grit of Dr. Eights, characterized by fucoides caudagalli.
1866   Athenæum No. 2025. 212/3   Vestiges of cocktail fucoids, coralloids.
1944   N.Y. State Mus. Bull. No. 336 93   Abrupt cessation of the ‘cocktail’ (Taonurus) markings.
1963   W. R. Jillson Geol. Area Stanton 13   Some rather large specimens of the ‘cocktail fossil’ Taonurus caudigalli.

1840—1963(Hide quotations)


3. English regional (northern). Of beer: fresh, foaming. Obsolete.

1888   S. O. Addy Gloss. Words Sheffield 48   Cock-tail, fresh and foaming. Only applied to beer.

1888—1888(Hide quotations)

 B. n.
 I. Senses denoting an animal or (in extended use) a person.

 a. A horse with a docked tail which sticks up; a cocktailed horse (see cocktailed adj.1 1). Obsolete.

1781   L. MacNally Sentimental Excursions 151   What say you, my dear—long-tails or cock-tails for the journey?
1885   J. G. Wood Horse & Man xv. 266   ‘Bang-tail, cock-tail, dock-tail, nick-tail.’ With the greatest regret I have seen these exploded fashions creeping slowly but surely back again. The tail, which some years ago was allowed to preserve its natural and beautiful form, has been gradually shortened.

1781—1885(Hide quotations)


 b. Horse Racing. A racehorse which is not a thoroughbred; a horse of mixed or inferior breed. Obsolete.Probably with allusion to the fact that the types of horses which commonly had their tails docked in the way described at sense B. 1a   were typically not thoroughbreds. Cf. note at cocktailed adj.1 1.

1808   G. Ellis Let. 23 Sept. in J. G. Lockhart Mem. Life Sir W. Scott (1837) II. v. 163   It is certainly painful to see a race-horse in a hackney-chaise, but..the wretched cock-tail on whom the same task is usually imposed, must shortly become a martyr in the service.
1842   W. M. Thackeray Fitz-Boodle's Confessions in Fraser's Mag. June 707   I can't afford a thorough-bred, and hate a cocktail.
1881   Dr. Gheist 225   The fellow said my legs were too long for riding anything but sixteen-hand Irish cock-tails.

1808—1881(Hide quotations)


 c. In extended use: a person (esp. a man) with pretensions of gentility but lacking good breeding, a parvenu; a person lacking a sense of socially correct or appropriate behaviour. Obsolete.

1839   F. P. D. Radcliffe Noble Sci.: Ideas Fox-hunting 67   It will be found in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred, where the harmony of any society is disturbed by an obnoxious individual, that he is a cock-tail; a low, underbred fellow; one, in short, who never could have had a grandfather.
1840   H. Grote Let. 7 Feb. in H. Wikoff Reminisc. of Idler (1880) 558   Madame L. will prove to be a half-bred ‘cock-tail’, as we say of the equine species here.
1854   W. M. Thackeray Newcomes I. xxx. 294   Such a selfish, insolent, coxcomb as that, such a cocktail.
1907   Truth (Sydney) 25 Aug. 4/7   They ‘sool’ their plutish prints on to proclaim him a cocktail, a renegade, a coward.

1839—1907(Hide quotations)


 2. More fully cocktail beetle. Any of various rove beetles which habitually raise the hind end and open the jaws in a threatening manner when alarmed, esp. the devil's coach-horse Ocypus olens; = cocktailed beetle n. at cocktailed adj.1 Compounds.

1829   J. F. Stephens Systematic Catal. Brit. Insects i. 256   Rove-beetles, Cock-tails.
1861   J. G. Wood Illustr. Nat. Hist. (1862) II. 375   A not very common species of cocktail beetle, the Staphylinus erythropterus is a very favourite prey of this bird.
1880   W. H. Patterson Gloss. Words Antrim & Down   Coffin-cutter, Ocypus olens, the cock-tail, an insect larger than an earwig, of a black colour. Called also the Devil's Coachman.
1913   H. G. Stanley Insect Life 94   If one cocktail is placed in the path of another a fight will often ensue, and it is generally ‘to the death’.
1973   Guardian 14 Dec. 14/2   Many small cocktail beetles, spiders and certain wingless flies..flourish in the local swamps in the depth of winter.
2010   Kentish Express (Nexis) 30 Sept.   Another name for the beetle is the cocktail beetle, not after a drink, but due to the posture of its tail when alarmed!

1829—2010(Hide quotations)

 II. An alcoholic mixed drink, and derived senses.

 a. Originally U.S. Originally: (the name of) a particular type of alcoholic drink, consisting of a spirit mixed with bitters, water, and sugar. Later: any alcoholic drink made by mixing a spirit or spirits with other ingredients such as a liqueur, fruit juice, etc. Also with modifying word specifying the primary ingredient of the drink.See note in etymology on the likely origin of this sense.There was a gradual transition between the term being used to denote a specific type of mixed drink—essentially a sling (sling n.5 1) with the addition of bitters—and it being used to refer to any alcoholic mixed drink. Clear references to drinks made with ingredients other than those of the original cocktail can be found from the mid 19th century (see for example quot. 1864), and the transition was substantially complete by the beginning of the 20th century.As the later generic sense ‘alcoholic mixed drink’ developed, individual types of cocktail were typically distinguished by a particular name. See, for example, Manhattan n.2   (first attested 1882), Martini n.2   (1884), old-fashioned n. 2   (1912), mojito n.   (1934), Bloody Mary n. 2   (1939), White Russian n. 3   (1965).

1803   Farmer's Cabinet (Amherst, New Hampsh.) 28 Apr.   Drank a glass of cocktail—excellent for the head... Call'd at the Doct's... Drank another glass of cocktail.
1806   Balance (Hudson, N.Y.) 13 May 146   Cock tail, then, is a stimulating liquor, composed of spirits of any kind, sugar, water, and bitters.
1839   F. Marryat Diary in Amer. III. 288   He frequents the bar, calls for gin cocktails, chews tobacco, and talks politics.
1848   W. Irving Hist. N.Y. (rev. ed.) vii. iii. 393   They [sc. the inhabitants of Maryland] lay claim to be the first inventors of those recondite beverages, cock-tail, stone-fence, and sherry cobbler.
1864   G. A. Sala in Daily Tel. 23 Aug.   To order champagne cocktails and fifty cent cabanas.
1882   J. Hawthorne Fortune's Fool (1883) i. xxvii   I would make no more of burglariously entering your premises..than I would of swallowing a whisky cocktail.
1931   M. de la Roche Finch's Fortune vi. 103   He..sipped cocktails in the lounge.
1948   New Yorker 6 Nov. 64/2   Cocktails are now so numerous that no bartender..can remember how to make all of them.
2006   Times 7 Sept. (T2 section) 17   This cocktail is a classic Venetian Bellini, with a bitter, blood-coloured twist.

1803—2006(Hide quotations)


 b. In plural and singular. A social gathering or event at which cocktails are served; a cocktail party.

1922   H. B. Hermon-Hodge Up against it in Nigeria iii. 41   It was at cocktails the previous night with Baba that I first made the acquaintance of..Laws.
1958   ‘A. Bridge’ Portuguese Escape ii. 20   I must go to a cocktail at the Belgian Embassy.
1994   tr. in Deb. House of Commons (Canada) 26 May 4490/1   These are not people who go to cocktails or to social activities to which members of Parliament are invited and which I attend as little as possible.

1922—1994(Hide quotations)

 4. figurative and in extended use.

 a. A mixture or combination of factors or elements.In early use typically with direct metaphorical reference to sense B. 3a; in quot. 1868   as an epithet for Lotta Crabtree (1847–1924), American actress and entertainer.

1868   Boston Daily Advertiser 17 Aug. 1/9   John Brougham lately called Miss Lotta a ‘dramatic cocktail’, and on being asked why he did so, wrote the following impromptu:—Because in Lotta we can see Artistic concentration Of sweetness, strength, and piquancy—A pungent combination!
1931   Washington Post 27 Sept. 20/2   In defiance of prohibition, let us start with a cocktail of criticism.
1953   Times of India 14 Oct. 10/2   The ebullient Moin made a heady cocktail of his speed, ball control, positioning and passing.
1981   P. Carey Bliss v. 230   There was no joy in their triumphs, only anger, revenge, nose-thumbing, name-calling, and..Harry..lent to this unpleasant cocktail a dominant flavour of fear.
2015   New Yorker 30 Mar. (Mag.) 75/2   The worldwide Y2K hysteria, a nutty cocktail of digital overthink and Luddite millennialism.

1868—2015(Hide quotations)


 b. A dish consisting of small pieces of food, such as chopped fruit salad or shellfish in a sauce or seasoning, which is typically served cold as an appetizer or light refreshment, traditionally in a glass. Usually with modifying word specifying the main ingredient.Recorded earliest in fruit cocktail n. at fruit n. Compounds 2.lobster cocktail, oyster cocktail, prawn cocktail, shrimp cocktail: see the first element.

1896   Morning Oregonian (Portland, Oregon) 12 Jan. 6/7 (advt.)    Russian caviar; assorted fruit cocktails; soup stocks; [etc.].
1900   Ladies' Home Jrnl. Oct. 48/1   Clam and oyster cocktails... The cocktails should be mixed at least a half hour before serving time... They are eaten with an oyster-fork.
1959   N. Mailer Advts. for Myself (1961) iii. 231   Taking off to greet new arrivals whose crabmeat cocktail she nibbled on.
1960   M. Patten Cookery in Colour no. 23   The correct way of serving these cocktails, though, is to use glasses, when the lettuce should be shredded very finely and put at the bottom of the glasses.
2001   Fodor's Healthy Escapes (rev. ed.) 255   Seafood cocktail, seviche of marinated sea bass and shrimp, chicken with fine herbs.

1896—2001(Hide quotations)


 c. Any mixture of liquids, esp. one which is in some way either harmful or medicinal. Hence: a combination or blend of a number of different therapeutic or recreational drugs, in any form.atomic cocktail, Brompton cocktail, lytic cocktail, Molotov cocktail: see the first element.

1901   Yale Fun 38/1   ‘It is an interesting work,’ said he modestly, as he mixed himself a cock-tail of laudanum and cocaine.
1904   Broadway Weekly 18 Aug. 21   A number of clericals..who would not know a golden fizz from a bi-chloride of mercury cocktail.
1971   Daily Tel. 16 Apr. 3   A clerk..died after lying unconscious for a month as a result of drinking a ‘cocktail’ of drugs which included cannabis.
1978   Guardian 12 May 4   Aquatic animals are subjected to a varying toxic cocktail that depends on the activities of local industry.
1992   N.Y. Times (Nexis) 6 Dec. 50/2   All psychiatric drugs are..likely to cause side effects..that need to be counteracted with still more drugs in a polypharmaceutical ‘cocktail’.
2006   Vanity Fair Feb. 134/1   A near-lethal cocktail of cocaine and heroin.

1901—2006(Hide quotations)

III. A type of beer.

 5. British School slang. A type of beer, perhaps fresh, foaming beer (cf. sense A. 3). Obsolete. rare.

1857   T. Hughes Tom Brown's School Days i. vi. 142   ‘Bill,..the half-hour hasn't struck.’ ‘Here, Bill, drink some cocktail.’.. Bill drank the proffered cocktail not unwillingly.

1857—1857(Hide quotations)




 C1. General use as a modifier, and with verbal nouns and participles forming compounds in which cocktail expresses the object of the underlying verb, in sense B. 3a, as in cocktail-drinking, cocktail list, cocktail-maker, cocktail menu, cocktail tray, etc.Some of the more significant compounds of this type are treated at Compounds 2. See also cocktail party n.

1870   E. P. Hingston Genial Showman 99/2   Your card-playing, cocktail-drinking Californians!
1893   Philadelphia Inquirer 4 July (Morning ed.) 2/6   Many attacks of indigestion are due to the cocktail habit.
1910   Sat. Evening Post 3 Sept. 10/1   He trailed his thumb across the whisky and cocktail list on the bill-of-fare.
1958   M. Stewart Nine Coaches Waiting vi. 73   The entry of Seddon with the cocktail tray interrupted us.
1988   Sydney Morning Herald (Nexis) 2 Aug. (Good Living section) 1   This attractive eatery..boasts an extensive cocktail menu.
2005   City News (Brisbane) 17 Nov. 5/3 (caption)    Ready to shake it with the best cocktail makers.

1870—2005(Hide quotations)


  cocktail attire   n. semi-formal attire suitable for wearing at a cocktail party.Often used as an indication of the dress code for an event, party, etc.

1932   N.Y. Times 22 July 30   American names were featured [at the fashion show]..such as..‘Casino’ and ‘Dividend’ for her Sunday night and cocktail attire.
2014   N.Y. Times (National ed.) 20 Nov. e8/1   It used to be so simple. Get an invitation to a nice dinner, and the dress code was crystal clear: ‘black tie’ or ‘cocktail attire’.

1932—2014(Hide quotations)


  cocktail bar   n. a bar which specializes in serving cocktails; (also) a bar or counter installed in a house, from which cocktails are served.

1908   Dominion (Wellington, N.Z.) 26 May 8/6   The blessings of modern civilisation. Metal roads, reinforced concrete bridges, electric trams, cocktail bars.
1934   W. Plomer Invaders xiv. 262   What the visitors took to be a cocktail bar proved..to be a gramophone.
2014   London Evening Standard 9 Oct. (West End Final ed.) 42/1   A new cocktail bar with modern, interactive and fresh bespoke cocktails created with local, seasonal and homemade ingredients.

1908—2014(Hide quotations)


  cocktail cabinet   n. a cabinet designed to contain bottles of spirits and mixers, glasses, etc., and usually incorporating a surface on which to mix cocktails.

1928   Illustr. London News 16 June 1080 (advt.)    Polished Mahogany Cocktail Cabinet. 42 inches high.
2005   Saltscapes (Canada) Nov. (Home & Cottage Suppl.) 39/2   A less elaborate option is the cocktail cabinet: a free-standing drinks armoire.

1928—2005(Hide quotations)


  cocktail circuit   n. a round of regular social events such as cocktail parties, esp. one attended by a particular group of people who habitually associate together.

1907   in J. A. Chaloner Scorpio App. 42   You can't beat the booze game... I cancelled my engagements on the cocktail circuit.
1946   N.Y. Times 7 Mar. 23/3   The main scene of the story..is in the countryside somewhere on the commuters' cocktail circuit near New York.
1978   Washington Post (Nexis) 21 July c1   The liberal-minded diplomat..whose easygoing manner had graced the Washington cocktail circuit.
2011   Fodor's Montréal & Québec City 92   Montréal's nightlife swings with a robust passion; from the early evening..after-work cocktail circuit, to the slightly later concerts and supper clubs.

1907—2011(Hide quotations)


  cocktail culture   n. a culture or lifestyle in which drinking cocktails, or going to cocktail parties or cocktail bars, is a habitual social activity.

1940   New Horizons Nov. 26/2   Dedicated to the proposition that..the wealth of the privileged should not perish, the picture ends. Predicated upon the cocktail culture of our society.
1976   Aging Jan. 44/1   Social conditioning in a ‘cocktail culture’ also plays a major role in inducing people to drink... ‘Drinking is portrayed as a social virtue.’
2010   New Yorker 10 May 21/1   The Manhattan Cocktail Classic gathered mixologists, academics, and boozehounds for lectures, workshops, and other events celebrating the resurgence of cocktail culture.

1940—2010(Hide quotations)


  cocktail dress   n. a woman's dress suitable for wearing at a cocktail party; esp. an elegant semi-formal dress reaching to just above or below the knee.

1921   Fort Wayne (Indiana) Jrnl.-Gaz. 4 Sept. 17/3 (headline)    Cocktail dress stirs Paris.
1935   Times 2 Oct. 17/4   An elaborate dinner ensemble tailored in heavy satin and with a full length skirt..makes a contrast to the cocktail dress which retains its skirt about 12 in. from the ground.
2015   Wall St. Jrnl. 14 Feb. d1/2   A Balenciaga cocktail dress..merges the structured satin of old Hollywood with a sheer fabric craftily appliquéd with tiny diamonds of embroidery.

1921—2015(Hide quotations)


  cocktail frock   n. British = cocktail dress n.

1926   China Press (Shanghai) 25 Sept. 14/5   Garbed in a ‘cocktail frock’, ‘Mlle. Flapper’ may wave a shaker right through into the evening without bothering to change her attire.
1959   Harrods News Summer 5   A matalessé cocktail frock with scooped neck.
2017   Irish Daily Mirror (Nexis) 19 July 24   Decadent dressing at Christmas is all about dazzling metallics and shimmering sequins from the pretty party cocktail frocks to the showstopping New Year's Eve ball gowns.

1926—2017(Hide quotations)


  cocktail glass   n. a type of glass used for drinking cocktails; esp. a stemmed glass with a distinctive flared or rounded bowl.

1873   Marion (S. Carolina) Star 3 Sept.   Pour in your gin or champagne..strain it in a cocktail glass..drop in piece of lemon peel, and then swallowed libitum.
1907   E. Wharton Fruit of Tree iii. xxiv. 354   Leaving everywhere in her wake a trail of cigarette ashes and cocktail glasses.
2014   Daily Tel. 9 Jan. 23/3   A squeeze of fresh lime and a few drops of Angostura bitters in a cocktail glass filled with sparkling water on the rocks.

1873—2014(Hide quotations)


  cocktail gown   n. a woman's elegant semi-formal gown suitable for wearing at a cocktail party; cf. cocktail dress n.

1935   Times 25 Nov. 17/5   A dinner or cocktail gown.
1993   N.Y. Times Mag. 24 Oct. 119/2   In 1953, a pale neurasthenic youth from French Algeria won the coveted International Wool Secretariat contest for dress design with a cocktail gown. Yves Saint Laurent was just 17.

1935—1993(Hide quotations)


  cocktail hour   n. the early evening, as a time of day associated with drinking cocktails as a social activity.

1893   Harper's Weekly 23 May 497/1   He sits among his alcoholic fellows at the cocktail hour.
2013   Wall St. Jrnl. 26 June b8/1   As the workday in many tech and media companies stretches past the cocktail hour, more companies are stocking full bars and beer fridges.

1893—2013(Hide quotations)


  cocktail-length adj. designating dresses and skirts having a length similar to that of a cocktail dress, typically reaching to just above or just below the knee.

1929   Wilkes-Barre (Pa.) Times-Leader 28 June 16/1 (advt.)    Party and dance wear... One and two-pieces, some with transparent velvet cocktail length jackets.
1959   Winnipeg Free Press 11 July 13/1   The bride..looked charming in a cocktail length gown of white nylon chiffon over white taffeta.
2013   K. Kwan Crazy Rich Asians iii. iii. 271   I brought this cute cocktail-length black-and-white dress from Reiss.

1929—2013(Hide quotations)


  cocktail lounge   n. a bar, typically in a hotel, restaurant, etc., where cocktails and other alcoholic drinks are served.

1920   Evening Standard 12 Oct. 8/2   Every afternoon..the Persian rugs and the tables and chairs are removed from the Special Cocktail Lounge in the grill-room [of the Ritz] and dancing takes place.
1934   Bakersfield Californian 7 Mar. 12/7   It is a sort of cocktail lounge.
2006   Food & Trav. Jan. 20/3   The hotel is offering..$50 of credit for use in either the ‘high-energy’ restaurants, cocktail lounge, spa or oasis beach club.

1920—2006(Hide quotations)


  cocktail mixer   n.  (a) a person who mixes cocktails, esp. as part of his or her job;  (b) a container in which cocktails are mixed; spec. = cocktail shaker n.

1875   Milwaukee (Wisconsin) Daily Sentinel 9 Feb. 2/3   A Detroit cocktail mixer won $2 on a wager.
1881   Rocky Mountain News (Denver, Colorado) 29 Mar. 2/2   We dip a cup—a cocktail mixer, for we are aristocrat in all things..—into the barrel and drink the water.
1959   N.Y. Times Mag. 12 July 33/3   Put the liquids over ice cubes in a cocktail mixer; stir well until thoroughly chilled.
2005   City News (Brisbane) 17 Nov. 5/3   South-East Queensland's most creative cocktail mixers are set to stir, shake and garnish their way to glory on Monday.

1875—2005(Hide quotations)


  cocktail music n. music of a kind played in the background at a cocktail party or cocktail bar, now typically characterized as softly melodious, light, bland, and unobtrusive; such music as a genre.

1925   F. S. Fitzgerald Great Gatsby iii. 49   The lights grow brighter as the earth lurches away from the sun, and now the orchestra is playing yellow cocktail music.
1934   Washington Post 28 Dec. 11   Although locally noted for his dance and cocktail music, the soft spot in Sidney's heart is for gypsy songs.
1968   Times 15 Mar. 8   Tinkling Manhattan cocktail music gently insinuates itself between the leather-topped boxes on which two young things sit.
2008   Cathedral Music Nov. 14/1   The BBC Messageboard was filled with comment, describing the service as ‘sentimental slush’ or ‘cocktail music’.

1925—2008(Hide quotations)


  cocktail napkin   n. a small napkin (originally made of linen, now usually of absorbent paper) designed to be placed under a drink when it is served, and now often used for scribbling a rough design or short message.

1913   Churchman (Hartford, Conn.) 20 Dec. 845/3 (advt.)    Walpole Bros. Irish linen manufacturers... cocktail napkins..tea napkins..luncheon cloths [etc.].
1930   V. Elliott & P. D. Stong Shake 'em Up 14   Chill the glasses.., place them in a circle on the tray, take the cocktail napkins from the drawer.
1965   Ogden (Utah) Standard-Examiner 26 Nov. 1 b/3   A will written on a cocktail napkin..has been tossed out of court.
2007   J. Díaz Brief Wondrous Life Oscar Wao iii. 115   Threw her drink, her glass, and then her purse at him... Then let him have it with a stack of cocktail napkins.

1913—2007(Hide quotations)


  cocktail onion   n. a small pickled pearl onion, typically served on a cocktail stick as party food or as garnish for a cocktail.

1927   Reno (Nevada) Evening Gaz. 20 Aug. 9/2   Cocktail onions.
1951   E. David French Country Cooking 217   Pickled gherkins and baby cocktail onions.
1997   Independent on Sunday 12 Jan. (Review Suppl.) 64/3   A martinoid drink made with a cocktail onion instead of lemon peel.

1927—1997(Hide quotations)


  cocktail parasol   n. = cocktail umbrella n. (b).

1950   Billboard 8 Apr. 209/1   Spring Specials! Pocket Mirrors..Plastic Men's Combs..Toothpick Knives..Cocktail Parasols.
2015   J. Grier Cocktails on Tap (e-book ed.)    Strain the drink into an ice-filled rocks or collins glass. Garnish with cherries and a cocktail parasol.

1950—2015(Hide quotations)


  cocktail pianist   n. a pianist who plays background music at a cocktail party, bar, etc., esp. one playing softly melodious, light, bland, and unobtrusive jazz; (hence) a pianist playing jazz which is characterized in this way (cf. cocktail piano n. (b)).

1946   Tucson (Arizona) Daily Citizen 1 Feb. 14/2   Cocktail pianist. Private parties.
1962   New Yorker 21 July 68/2   Oscar Peterson (the best cocktail pianist in the business).
2003   N.Y. Times 21 Sept. ii. 13/3   He flourished under a more unorthodox instructor, a professional cocktail pianist with a stack of ‘fake’ books, the bootleg sheet-music compilations that taught him pop songs.

1946—2003(Hide quotations)


  cocktail piano   n.  (a) a piano used for playing background music in cocktail bars or similar venues; a piano on which music of this type (characterized as softly melodious, light, and bland) is played;  (b) a style of playing jazz piano which is characterized as softly melodious, light, and bland.

1937   Nevada State Jrnl. 12 June 3 (advt.)    Entertainment by Bill Mosier at the cocktail piano.
1951   N.Y. Times 4 Mar. 110   Cy Walter, whose style is a few cuts above ‘cocktail piano’.
1958   Daily Mail 7 Oct. 8/3   Robin Douglas-Home tinkling his cocktail piano.
1994   Wire Aug. 21/1   The proximity of Hollywood invited aspirant black singers to emulate Nat King Cole's success as a ‘sepia Sinatra’—cooing blues and ballads over tinkling cocktail piano.

1937—1994(Hide quotations)


cocktail powder   n. Obsolete (apparently) a flavoured powder used as a ready-made ingredient for cocktails.

1865   Reader 8 July 40/2   Advertisements of quack medicines, patent skirts, cock-tail powders, plantation bitters.

1865—1865(Hide quotations)


  cocktail reception   n. a social gathering, typically before an evening event, at which cocktails, and often also canapés, are served.

1926   Cedar Rapids (Iowa) Republican 12 Apr. 9/4   The court martial of Col. Alexander Williams, growing out of his alleged ‘cocktail’ reception for Brig. Gen. Smedley D. Butler upon the latter's arrival here.
1962   Quick Frozen Foods Sept. 121/1   Convention program..6.30 p.m. Cocktail reception..7.30 p.m. Dinner..9.30 p.m. Variety show.
1994   Star-Ledger (Newark, New Jersey) 26 Nov. 27/1   A black-tie gala..which begins with a cocktail reception at the Mansion itself.
2009   N.Y. Times (National ed.) 29 Apr. b5 (advt.)    Our glasses will be raised for the extended cocktail reception, a sumptuous dinner and the fantastic awards program.

1926—2009(Hide quotations)


  cocktail ring   n. an eye-catching dress ring, typically set with a large (but now often inexpensive or imitation) gemstone.

1936   San Antonio (Texas) Express 22 Mar. 4 d (advt.)    Three-stone diamond cocktail ring set in two-tone gold.
1980   Lawrence (Kansas) Daily Jrnl.-World 13 Jan. (Advt. Suppl.) 2   A stylish Gemfire cocktail ring with a..solitaire center stone surrounded by 6 sparkling side stones... $19.95.
2009   H. Freeman Meaning of Sunglasses (rev. ed.) 114   Oversized fake cocktail rings work with both jeans and T-shirts or party outfits.

1936—2009(Hide quotations)


  cocktail sauce   n. any of various sauces typically served with seafood; now esp.  (a) (in North America) a spicy tomato sauce containing horseradish or chilli;  (b) (in Britain, Australia, and elsewhere) a mild pink creamy sauce made with mayonnaise and tomato purée or ketchup (cf. Marie Rose n.).

1903   Marion (Ohio) Daily Star 3 Feb. 5/5 (advt.)    Snider's cocktail sauce.
1922   Good Housekeeping Mar. 61   A good mixture for the cocktail sauce is as follows:..mix together one tablespoonful of catchup or chili sauce, one tablespoonful of lemon juice,..and one-fourth teaspoonful of Worcestershire sauce.
1935   Examiner (Launceston, Tasmania) 16 Jan. 12/5   Pour over..a little cocktail sauce made as follows: Mix together half a cupful of tomato catsup and a quarter cupful of mayonnaise [etc.].
1960   M. Patten Cookery in Colour no. 25   Cocktail sauce for Prawn or Shrimp Cocktail.
1994   Which? Feb. 19/1   Sandwich fillings..included..bacon and egg with mayonnaise..avocado and prawn with cocktail sauce.
2009   Time Out N.Y. 15 Oct. 27/1   The piquillo pepper and green-curry mayo offered as adjuncts to house-made cocktail sauce are simply too potent for seafood this fresh.

1903—2009(Hide quotations)


  cocktail sausage   n. a small sausage of a type served cold as party food, esp. on a cocktail stick.

1927   Evening Democrat (Fort Madison, Iowa) 10 May 7/2   Cocktail sausage is the newest fad at the Ritz.
1961   Harrods Food News 5/2   Cocktail Sausages flavoured with chilli.
1999   Earth Matters Winter 36/3   She assumes that the adults in the household would rather die than eat chicken nuggets, cocktail sausages, crisps or chocolate.

1927—1999(Hide quotations)


  cocktail shaker   n. a container in which the ingredients of a cocktail are vigorously shaken to mix them.

1868   G. A. Sala in Notes & Queries 24 Oct. 401/1   I never possessed a pair of ‘cocktail-shakers’ myself, but a young officer in the Blues..did possess..a brace of tall silver mugs in which the ingredients of the beverage known as a ‘cocktail’..are mixed, shaken together, and then scientifically discharged.
1928   Observer 17 June 15/4   A grimacing waiter tilts his cocktail-shaker.
1993   Martha Stewart Living Dec. 46/1   A stainless-steel cocktail shaker and strainer are indispensable for chilling and blending drinks ordered ‘straight up’.

1868—1993(Hide quotations)


  cocktail-shaking   n. and adj.  (a) n. the action or process of vigorously shaking the ingredients of a cocktail to mix them;  (b) adj. characterized by cocktail-shaking.

1921   Times of India 2 July 8/1 (advt.)    The ‘Conjuring’ Cocktail Shaker we are now offering make [sic] Cocktail Shaking absolutely easy.
1922   Mod. Stationer 25 mar. 25 (advt.)    Our crap-shooting, cocktail-shaking, gay young people have a keen and fresh champion in Dorothy Speare.
2014   Wall St. Jrnl. 22 Nov. c14   A number of myths have arisen around cocktail shaking involving speed, duration, size of cubes, shaking style and so forth.

1921—2014(Hide quotations)


  cocktail snack   n. (usually in plural) a small, typically bite-sized appetizer or snack suitable for eating with cocktails.

1927   China Press (Shanghai) 11 Dec. 6 (advt.)    For the Christmas table we recommend our nice selection of herring dainties as hors d'oeuvres and cocktail snacks.
1960   N.Y. Herald-Tribune 19 July 18/2   Cachita's Banana Chips are..the newest cocktail snack in the city delicacy shops.
2006   Edmonton Jrnl. 17 May f1/2   It's just about sunset when the cooks at the Homeplace Ranch lay out a buffet of cocktail snacks on the long ranch-house table.

1927—2006(Hide quotations)


  cocktail stick   n. a small pointed stick on which small items of party food, or pieces of garnish for a cocktail, may be served, and which may also be used for other purposes (see e.g. quot. 1928).Cf. cocktail onion n., cocktail sausage n.Rare in North American usage.

1928   Daily Mail 22 Mar. 19   Cut the kidneys into thin strips..and roll round them pieces of bacon, using a cocktail stick as a skewer.
1937   ‘M. Innes’ Hamlet, Revenge! i. 22   A luridly-tinged cherry speared on a cocktail-stick.
2004   Zest Dec. 96/2   Thread the tomato halves, basil leaves, mozzarella cubes (or halved bocconcini balls) and olives onto the cocktail sticks.

1928—2004(Hide quotations)


  cocktail suit   n. a semi-formal suit, esp. for women, appropriate for wearing at a cocktail party.

1924   Daily Kennebec Jrnl. (Augusta, Maine) 12 June 6/6   ‘And then,’ she narrated proudly, ‘Uncle Steve stepped out, all dressed up in a cocktail suit.’
1950   Leader Apr. 1   A slim girl..in a cocktail suit.
2009   Times 23 Nov. 22   Black and white shots of María Dolores de Cospedal in a smart cocktail suit.

1924—2009(Hide quotations)


  cocktail table   n. a table on which to place cocktails or other drinks; (in later use usually) (North American) a low table typically placed in front of a sofa or armchair; a coffee table.

1913   N.Y. Times 11 Dec. 7/2 (advt.)    Oriental tea and cocktail tables with separate trays.
1965   J. M. Cain Magician's Wife (1966) ii. 18   Flanking it were two sofas, a cocktail table between.
2001   N.Y. Times 17 June ix. 3/3   The ‘living room’ has a spare red seating system and metal cocktail tables.

1913—2001(Hide quotations)


  cocktail time   n. a time at which cocktails are drunk; spec. the early evening, as a time of day associated with drinking cocktails as a social activity; cf. cocktail hour n.

1893   Life 5 Oct. 215/1   I can only have my say at you boys for ten minutes at cocktail time, once a week.
1958   J. Betjeman Coll. Poems 260   Your lives were good and more secure Than ours at cocktail time in Pinner.
2008   Church Times 4 July 48/4   At home he would sit at his desk from nine to cocktail time, whether he wrote or not.

1893—2008(Hide quotations)


  cocktail umbrella   n.  (a) a stylish umbrella, suitable for use as an accessory at a cocktail party (rare);  (b) a miniature umbrella, typically made from a toothpick and brightly coloured or patterned paper, used to decorate cocktails, desserts, etc.

1950   New Yorker 9 Dec. 133/1   For someone very soignée, a cocktail umbrella in black silk, with a black antelope handle studded with tiny rhinestones.
1971   Daily Tel. 27 Mar. 9/5   [Ingredients] 1 pint milk 3 marshmallows... A glace cherry 3 cocktail umbrellas (optional).
2010   J. Davis Cocktails 110   Garnish with pineapple wedges, a maraschino cherry, and a cocktail umbrella.

1950—2010(Hide quotations)


  cocktail waitress   n. a waitress who serves cocktails or other drinks in a cocktail bar or similar venue.

1941   Bakersfield Californian 29 Mar. 11/1 (advt.)    Woody's Bar and Cocktail Lounge... Staff members include Florence ‘Mickey’ Classi..cocktail waitress..formerly of the Ritz.
1954   New Yorker 27 Mar. 71/3   The pretty cocktail waitresses a-tiptoe in their Western boots.
1975   El Paso (Texas) Herald-Post 9 May d2/4 (advt.)    Experienced cocktail waitress needed for an elegant concept restaurant.
2010   K. Price-Glynn Strip Club i. 25   Working [in a strip club] as a cocktail waitress..I was playing hostess in the ultimate male playground.

1941—2010(Hide quotations)