What’s a Cocktail Cocktail?

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Cocktail umbrellas are made of a skewer, cardboard ribs, and Japanese paper, and serve as both a decoration and a practical way to reduce solar radiation and evaporation of volatile spirits. Their origins are unclear, but they may have been used as symbolic gifts to the gods by native Polynesians. The first cocktail umbrellas were used in Trader Vic’s in 1932 and were popularized by the rise of cocktails among female customers. Most commercial paper umbrellas are made in Asian countries, using Japanese paper and Chinese newspaper as support material.

A cocktail umbrella usually consists of a split wooden or bamboo skewer, several cardboard ribs, and a colorful piece of Japanese paper. After mixing certain types of frozen or mixed cocktails, a bartender will open the umbrella canopy and place it in your glass as a colorful decoration. A small ring around the skewer generally holds the umbrella open while the recipient sips the drink through a straw.

Believe it or not, a cocktail umbrella has at least one practical function. Drinks served outdoors, especially in a true tropical setting, tend to melt very quickly in the sun. A large cocktail umbrella, also known as a paper parasol, reduces the amount of solar radiation reaching the ice within a cold alcoholic concoction.

There are those who suggest that the cocktail umbrella also prevents too rapid evaporation of volatile spirits such as rum. It is believed that the fumes from the alcohol are trapped under the umbrella, so when the consumer puts it aside to take a sip, the aromatic gases reach the nose. This theory may be just wishful thinking, but a large cocktail umbrella can actually trap escaping alcohol molecules as they evaporate.

The cocktail umbrella’s actual origins are a bit murky, but some have theorized that small umbrellas may have been created by native Polynesians as symbolic gifts to the gods. A number of other representative trinkets are commonly found in Asian and Polynesian countries. The use of paper umbrellas to protect alcoholic beverages may have begun when native Polynesians welcomed the activity of foreign captains and their crews.

According to a popular rumor, the first cocktail umbrellas used for decorative purposes appeared at a legendary tropical-themed night club called Trader Vic’s in 1932. The owner of Trader Vic’s, however, claimed to have co-opted the idea of ​​an earlier Polynesian bar called Ed Beachcomber. The appearance of the umbrella and other elaborate garnishes coincided with the rise in popularity of cocktails among female customers. Many of the fancier cocktail recipes used today come from friendly competition between bars to attract more female customers.

There are plans available to make homemade cocktail umbrellas, but most of the commercial paper umbrellas are made in Asian countries. While Japanese paper is often used for an umbrella canopy, manufacturers often use Chinese newspaper as an inexpensive support material. This practice has created an urban legend regarding hidden messages placed inside these umbrellas, but they are not true.

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