Alcohol has long been humanity’s favoured lubricant in facilitating social intercourse. Historically however, good company and good conversation were only part of the story when deciding what to drink because the social sophisticates of yesteryear were concerned with health in addition to wellbeing. The forbears of modern cocktails were elixirs routinely put together using cordials, bitters and shrubs made from herbs that were understood to have curative properties, or at the very least acted as aids to digestion.
This idea had its roots in an ancient belief that the body is filled with four basic ‘humours’, being blood, black bile, yellow bile and phlegm. These humours were in turn related to the “four temperaments”, the theory that suggests that there are four fundamental personality types, sanguine, choleric, melancholic, and phlegmatic.
So if you fell ill, or were in a bad mood it was believed that this was because the balance of the humours in your body had become disrupted, basically because you had not been eating, drinking and exercising properly. This idea first arose with Hippocrates in Ancient Greece and was enthusiastically espoused by the Romans, subsequently dominating western medical practice until the 19th century.