The Japanese Cocktail was created in New York City in 1860 by “Professor” Jerry Thomas to celebrate the occasion of the first Japanese diplomatic mission to the United States.
One member of the Japanese delegation, their translator, Tateishi “Tommy” Onojirou, was a bit of a bon vivant, so it makes sense that he would have made his way to Jerry Thomas’s bar. Apparently Thomas whipped up this drink for him — thus the name, despite a lack of any ingredients that are even remotely Japanese.
The Japanese Cocktail was one of the first cocktails to have its recipe printed. It was found in Thomas’s seminal 1862 book, How to Mix Drinks, Or The Bon-Vivant’s Companion, the world’s first cocktail guide.