Drink vocabulary is continually expanding and where we once spoke of only cocktails and mixed drinks, now there is a new set of craftily worded names to discuss. Many of these new names are simple derivatives that play off the suffix of cocktails and they are used to further define certain ingredients or styles. Most often, these are the result of a little creative word play by writers and media professionals.
We've been using the words cocktails and mixed drinks for years and even those two can cause a bit of confusion. Technically speaking, a cocktail is a mixed drink, but a mixed drink is not a cocktail. Then, to get even more technical, a cocktail (by its initial 1806 definition) is: "Cocktail is a stimulating liquor, composed of spirits of any kind, sugar, water and bitters." Of course, mindsets have progressed and evolved in the last 200+ years, so we have become accustomed to calling almost every alcoholic beverage a cocktail.
Technicalities aside, here is a run down of some of the more recent hybridized 'tails that have been used to define certain drink categories. I'm sure that the list will continue to expand as we continue to explore and create drinks and re-categorize them with catchy titles and I will be sure to add to this list as I discover more.
Mocktails - Quite simple: mock cocktails or mixed drinks that do not contain alcohol. This was one of the first classes of drinks that took on the 'tails suffix, likely because it's an easier than saying non-alcoholic mixed drinks. It does have a nice ring and is an easier, funner, and fancier way to describe these innocent drinks whose flavors often rival those of their boozy brethren.
Beertails - (aka Brewtinis, Beeritas) It is pretty obvious that beertails refers to mixed drinks that contain beer. Some of these drinks use beer as the only alcohol, while others add distilled spirits to the mix. I have an easier time using beertails in the latter instance and still use beer mixed drinks for those that have the beer-only base, but that's a personal preference.
Winetails - This is in the same vein as beertails and has an equally obvious definition: winetails are mixed drinks that have a wine base. This category includes all of the wines - red, white, sparkling, etc. - and the many drink recipes we use them in with and without liquor. Explore winetail recipes...
Croptails - Croptails is one of the new words and when I was recently introduced to it and asked to write about it, I couldn't help but think, "that just means fresh ingredients, right?" In recent years especially, we've been talking about using fresh ingredients to make better drinks - fresh fruit juices, herbs, vegetables, etc. - but croptails goes slightly beyond that. It is a word that is being used to define drinks that use the more unusual garden ingredients such as beets, squash, arugula, even corn that are not found in your average cocktail. Croptails are better defined as drinks that are inspired by the average farmer's market and some good examples can be found here: 10 Unique Cocktails for the Adventurous Drinker.
Gastrotails - Another new word that, quite honestly bothers me, gastrotails is used to define the more savory of drinks that may be more closely related to food than anything commonly found behind the bar. A Chicago Tribune article from 2007 appropriately titled Croptails! has a pretty good definition: "...these food-friendly cocktails with savory elements and wine-based sweeteners are hand-crafted beauties..."
Reptiletails - This one is completely new to me and was brought to my attention by European mixologist, Humberto Marques. Break the word down: reptile-tails. It's true, someone somewhere in the world is mixing enough drinks with those liquors that include snakes and other reptiles in the bottle to coin a new phrase.
Poptails - A fun new trend is among us and it goes beyond the frozen cocktails we are used to. Poptails are frozen ice pops that are spiked with alcohol and they are fun treats for summer parties. Explore poptail recipes...