The Cobbler

Celebrate spring with this refreshing cocktail.

Photography Dwayne Martineau

An ancient group of cocktails, Cobblers are essentially a combination of wine or spirit, sugar and fruit poured over crushed ice, garnished with fresh fruit and consumed through a straw. While many consumed whiskey or brandy cobblers, these drinks were never as popular or famous as the Sherry Cobbler.

Cooling, refreshing and delicious, the Sherry Cobbler was quick to catch on in America where it was (likely) invented. However, it’s international fame came from a surprising patron, Charles Dickens. Dickens wrote in his 1843 work, The Life and Adventures of Martin Chuzzlewit, “Martin took the glass with an astonished look; applied his lips to the reed; and cast up his eyes once in ecstasy. He paused no more until the goblet was drained to the last drop. ‘This wonderful invention, sir,’ said Mark, tenderly patting the empty glass, ‘is called a cobbler. Sherry Cobbler when you name it long; cobbler, when you name it short.'”

But where did the Cobbler come from? Who invented it? Sadly, the origins of this drink have been lost to the sands of time. It predates Jerry Thomas’s first bartending guide by at least 40 years, so its inventor remains a mystery. But while the drink’s origin has been forgotten, thankfully the drink itself hasn’t.

Though nowadays overshadowed by its cousin, the Mint Julep, the Sherry Cobbler played a pivotal role in the development of mixed drinks as we know them today. It was the drink that launched the simple straw to popularity. It was also the drink that showed the merit of the cocktail shaker. In fact, the classic, three-part shaker so commonly seen on Mad Men and in home stores the world over, is still called a “cobbler shaker.”

But how could a simple mixture of sherry, sugar, fruit and ice rise to such heights of popularity? Two simple reasons: It was new and delicious.

So what was new about the Cobbler? For one, the straw was a first for many drinkers. And ice was still a novelty to many, given that the ice trade had only really begun at the start of the 19th century. Combined, these two qualities made the Cobbler a novel, cooling affair. As the liquid passed up from the bottom of the glass, through the ice-surrounded straw, it became as cool as possible. It was also much cleaner than trying to drink a crushed- ice drink straight from the glass. This was something new – something refined. That refinement and novelty helped launch the Cobbler to massive popularity. As pioneering bartender Harry Johnson noted in 1882, the Cobbler was “without doubt the most popular beverage in the country, with ladies as well as with gentlemen.”

So when the heat strikes this summer, don’t forget the first of the great cooling cocktails. Treat yourself to a Cobbler. Perhaps try the tropical Cobbler we’ve included.


British Raj Cobbler

1 oz. Old Tom Gin

3 oz. Amontillado Sherry

1 oz. lemon juice

0.5 oz. turmeric and cinnamon syrup

Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake until cold and strain into a Collins glass filled with crushed ice. Garnish with a straw, mint sprig and
orange slices. 

Turmeric and Cinnamon Syrup

4 cups water

4 cups sugar

1 cup chopped, fresh turmeric

2 sticks cinnamon

In a saucepan, combine water and sugar over medium heat. Bring to a simmer and remove from heat. Transfer syrup to container and add turmeric and cinnamon. Leave overnight and then strain syrup through cheesecloth. Syrup will keep for three weeks in the fridge. 

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