Did you know drinking cocktails was patriotic? It turns out that the cocktail is quintessentially American; the word emerged in the U.S. in the early nineteenth century, and the form of the libation -- hard liquor mixed with some kind of sweetener, gained prominence here first, as well. Cocktails were developed because there was lots of nasty hooch being brewed here, and people wanted something to sweeten the flavor. But the event which really launched the cocktail was prohibition. When alcohol became illegal, it was a lot easier to smuggle a fifth of gin than a barrel of beer. As a result, the American brewing industry tanked, and the mixologist was born. So feel free to sneer at those servile imitators, the microbrews, next time you savor a mint julep or its southern cousin, the mohito. And hum a few bars of your favorite stars and stripes-themed tune -- it's the American way.