dog-drinking-water_safebeedotcom“Oh!” the Grog Dog’s companion exclaimed after taking a gulp and sputtering a bit, “I forgot we’re having cocktails; I thought we were having drinks!” I knew what he meant, but is it correct to make the distinction between a cocktail and a drink? Does it even matter?

Wikipedia tells us that, “Drinks, or beverages, are liquids intended for human consumption.” It helpfully adds that water is not generally considered a beverage; alcoholic beverages contain ethanol (though alcohol itself includes many other chemical compounds); and non-alcoholic beverages are made with (or are modified so as to contain) less than 0.5 percent alcohol by volume (ABV).

So technically, we were having drinks – they were liquid and intended for human consumption. But we were consuming the top tier of the drink hierarchy, the cocktail, which deserves a more refined description.

The Wiki definition of a cocktail is, “[A] beverage that contains two or more ingredients if at least one of them contains alcohol.”

Even without a hangover, this explanation makes my head hurt, because it implies that a “non-alcoholic beverage” at 0.5 pct ABV can be the main ingredient in a cocktail as long as it’s mixed with a second ingredient – for example, a near-beer shandy. But no one – at least, no one I’ve ever met, heard of, or read about in the history of human civilization – really looks forward to kicking back with a concoction of cooked-down malt beverage with a splash of lemon-flavored high-fructose-corn-syrup that has zero capability to alter their mood or please their palate.

And for me and my drinking buddy, therein lies the distinction.

vintage-cocktail-party_thirtysomewheredotcomDrinks (the alcoholic kind) are what you consume at parties, where social lubrication is more important than the flavor profile. Surely you wouldn’t criticize your host for using bottled juices or middle-shelf spirits when serving a crowd; the important thing is that they encourage guests to have a good time together.

Cocktails, in the Grog Dog’s lexicon, are beverages containing a balanced combination of two or more flavorful ingredients and enough alcohol (technically, ethanol) to make their consumption a physical and emotional pleasure – an experience to savor. Cocktails can and do enhance a gathering, a meal, and other activities, but they mostly are crafted for the sheer joy of the tastes, textures, and effect they deliver. The higher the quality of your ingredients, the better the drinking experience, whether you’re alone or with a group.

Whatever you call them, delicious cocktails can be as simple as the Salty Dog, a slightly savory mixture of gin (or vodka, 1.5 oz), grapefruit juice (5 oz), and kosher salt (1/4 tsp) stirred with ice. This is a variation of the even-simpler Greyhound, which eliminates Dogstar_paws4clawsdotcomthe salt.

Having taken the first swig of a craft cocktail as if it were a mere drink, my remorseful friend thereafter sipped, enjoyed, and relaxed… as the cocktail gods intended.

Image credits: safebee.com (drinking pup); thirtysomewhere.com (party); paws4claws.com (dogstar)
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