Until very recently, the earliest known reference to the word “cocktail” in print was from the May 13, 1806 issue of The Balance, a Hudson, New York newspaper. Now, thanks to the efforts of David K. Barnhart, we now have an earlier reference from April 28, 1803. The word is used in an article from The Farmer’s Cabinet newspaper published in Amherst, New Hampshire. Here is the entry, which I have transcribed:FRIDAY.-Waked at 7 by the bell- wonder what people mean by disturbing one so early after an Assembly: turn’d and doz’d ’till 9: got up, and dressed- felt queer; took a cup of coffee- no appetite.-10. Lounged to the Doctor’s- found Peter- talked of the girls- smoked half a cigar- felt rather squally: Van Hogan came in- quiz’d me for looking dull- great bore. 11. Drank a glass of cocktail- excellent for the head.
David K. Barnhart is the author of The Barnhart Dictionary Companion