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Cocktail wieners are actual beef or pork tiny sausages, usually with some kind of smoke flavoring, hence the nickname "little smokies." In texture, they are more like a bratwurst, although they look like tiny hot dogs. Sayings like "His toothpick doesn't go all the way through his cocktail weenie." are a way of commenting on someone's mental deficiency, and highlight the place the humble cocktail wieners have taken in culture.
Wieners, of course, have been around for a long, long time. Sausage is one of the oldest meat dishes and Germans brought the dish to high art in their wienerwurst meats of renown. Cocktail wieners are fairly recent innovations and have made a name for themselves in the realm of quick appetizers.
Cocktail wieners have become ubiquitous at potluck dinners, picnics, and Christmas parties everywhere in the United States. They are pre-cooked, salty and spicy — perfect for a heavier appetizer and quick to fix. One of the most popular recipes involves a 16-ounce (453 grams) package of cocktail wieners, a bottle of barbecue sauce, and a slow cooker. The cook mixes the cocktail wieners and sauce in the slow cooker, replaces the lid, turns it to "low" and warms it completely. This easy appetizer can be served with toothpicks.
Some people wrap cocktail wieners in biscuit dough, to make pigs in a blanket. Others make a up a grape jelly and mustard concoction as a sweet and spicy sauce. Some cooks serve them with cheese and crackers and still others cut them up and use them in macaroni and cheese. Children usually love these bite-size sausages, making them an ideal way to get confirmed chicken-nugget eaters to try something new. Numerous recipes with cocktail wieners are available in cookbooks and online.
Cocktail wieners are marketed by some of the major meat manufacturers such as the Hormel Corp. and the Armor Corp. They are available nearly everywhere bacon or sausage is sold. Their versatility has made them popular as a snack or in an appetizer recipe. They are American originals.