American Inventions - Game 6, Louisville

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

It's throwback night! So throw some back.

This is our fourth year of doing themes for basketball season. Two years ago, the theme was alcoholic beverages, because:

...we like to come up with a theme to help make the typically agonizing USF basketball season a little bit more enjoyable. (Or at the very least, make it feel like the season is going by faster.) This year, we decided that instead of depressing everyone with horrendous music, we'd try to decrease the pain basketball season will cause us.

Two years ago was, of course, USF's greatest basketball season ever. Our need for alcohol went from drunk-at-the-end-of-the-bar-at-closing-time to celebratory champagne as it went on.

This season so far has been the opposite of that season. Our rare pre-season optimism for basketball has been undermined by a slow start. The game notes don't even bother listing Anthony Collins as "doubtful" anymore. We're suddenly looking for a new athletic director. And who knows where this NCAA inquiry might go.

We need a drink. Not only that, we need a little mojo, a little something to change up the mood. Something to tap into the spirit of the great 2011-12 team, and their fantastic regular-season victory in Louisville, which undoubtedly punched USF's ticket to the NCAA Tournament. With this in mind, I give you:

USF Basketball Mixology - Game 6, Louisville

(DISCLAIMER: Enjoy responsibly. 21 means 21. Don't drink and drive.)

Today's American Invention is an alcoholic beverage. It was invented (for the most part) in Louisville in the 1880s, at the fancy Pendennis Club, which still operates today. (Any readers who have ever visited are invited to tell their stories in the comments.)

To tell the story of this famous cocktail, we must delve into the history of the word "cocktail" itself. Fittingly for Louisville, it involves horses.

At the time of the earliest known usage of the word, 1798, a cocktail was a horse whose tail had been cut short, to indicate it was of mixed breed, and therefore less valuable to breeders. Unscrupulous horse traders had ways of hiding this condition using various ginger-based concoctions. Eventually the word "cocktail" came to describe the concoction, and by 1806 the meaning had morphed from "ginger-based remedy for your cocktail horse" into "human potable made of water, sugar, bitters, and spirit of choice."

Of course, all kinds of alcoholic beverages were invented in the 19th century, and over time the word "cocktail" came to mean any mixed drink. Especially after Jerry Thomas, who is pretty much the father of modern mixology, used the word as such when he published America's first mixed drinks guide in 1862.

By the 1880s, "cocktails" in their original meaning - water, sugar, bitters, and alcohol - were becoming popular again. The Chicago Tribune made references to an "old fashioned cocktail", referring to the c. 1806 creation, being available around town.

But an old fashioned cocktail didn't become an Old Fashioned until a bartender at the Pendennis Club codified a recipe for whiskey magnate James E. Pepper. Pepper took the recipe with him to New York City, and the rest is history. As it was later documented:

Old Fashioned Whiskey Cocktail

Dissolve a small lump of sugar with a little water in a whiskey-glass; add two dashes Angostura bitters, a small piece of ice, a piece of lemon-peel, one jigger whiskey. Mix with small bar-spoon and serve, leaving spoon in glass.

Here's the official version, from the International Bartenders Association list of standard cocktails:

OLD FASHIONED
  • 4.5 cl (1.5 fluid ounces, or one shot) Bourbon or Rye whiskey
  • 2 Dashes Angostura Bitters
  • 1 sugar cube
  • Few dashes plain water
Place sugar cube in old-fashioned glass and saturate with bitters, add a dash of plain water.
Muddle until dissolve.
Fill the glass with ice cubes and add whisky.
Garnish with orange slice and a cocktail cherry.

Some Old Fashioned enthusiasts regard the inclusion of fruit as heresy of the highest order. I say, to each his own. For further discussion of this venerable drink, see oldfashioned101.com. It's worth visiting for the 1880s web aesthetic alone.

Drink responsibly. You probably have to work Thursday morning, and this game could get ugly.

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