While writing the biography of Jerry Thomas, the man who wrote the first bartender's guide, it was more or less obligatory for me to tackle the origin of the cocktail itself. An academic in a past life, I fell back on my training and assembled the earliest references to the drink I could find. There were three, each of them considered canonical. The first is the Betsy Flanagan story, which is found in one of James Fenimore Cooper's more obscure novels, The Spy: A Tale of the Neutral Ground, set in Westchester County, New York, during the dark days when it was a violent no-man's-land between the Continental Army and the British. In the book, the salty Elizabeth "Betty" (not Betsy, as legend has it) Flanagan keeps a rough tavern, and Cooper characterizes her as "the inventor of that beverage which is so well known at the present hour [i.e., 1821], to all the patriots who make a winter's march between [New York City and Albany], and which is distinguished by the name of 'cock-tail.'" Then there was the well-worn 1806 citation from the Hudson, New York, Balance and Columbian Repository, a political paper that defined a cocktail as that mixture of spirits, sugar, water, and bitters that we know today. Finally, there's a widely quoted line from Washington Irving's Knickerbocker's History of New York, first published in 1809, in which he describes the Marylanders as laying claim to "those recondite beverages, cock-tail, stonefence and sherry-cobbler."