A cocktail is an alcoholic mixed drink, which is either a combination of spirits, or one or more spirits mixed with other ingredients such as fruit juice, lemonade, flavored syrup, or cream. There are various types of cocktails, based on the number and kind of ingredients added. The origins of the cocktail are debated.
The Oxford Dictionaries define cocktail as "An alcoholic drink consisting of a spirit or spirits mixed with other ingredients, such as fruit juice or cream". A cocktail can contain alcohol, a sugar, and a bitter/citrus. When a mixed drink contains only a distilled spirit and a mixer, such as soda or fruit juice, it is a highball. Many of the International Bartenders Association Official Cocktails are highballs. When a mixed drink contains only a distilled spirit and a liqueur, it is a duo, and when it adds a mixer, it is a trio. Additional ingredients may be sugar, honey, milk, cream, and various herbs.
Mixed drinks without alcohol that resemble cocktails are known as "mocktails" or "virgin cocktails".
Traditionally cocktails were a mixture of spirits, sugar, water, and bitters. The term highball appears during the 1890s to distinguish a drink composed only of a distilled spirit and a mixer. During Prohibition in the United States (1919–1933), when alcoholic beverages were illegal, cocktails were still consumed illegally in establishments known as speakeasies.