The drink that popularized ice and straws
Ever have a cobbler? The drink, that is, not the dessert?
Back in the 19th century, the cobbler was one of the most popular mixed drinks around, with sherry usually serving as the base spirit. It was among the first drinks to include ice as an integral component—and one of the first to be served with a straw. More on that later.
The Sherry Cobbler has been out of favor for a long time, but we think it’s due for a revival. It makes a particularly tasty and refreshing summer drink. Plus, sherry has a fairly low alcoholic quotient. That means you can have a couple of these on a lazy afternoon and still keep your wits about you.
So why not mix up one of these charmers and sip a little cocktail history? Your great, great, great grandparents would approve.
Recipe: The Sherry Cobbler Cocktail
A cobbler is a specific class of mixed drink—just as a cocktail used to be (though today we tend to call all mixed drinks “cocktails”). One of the distinguishing features of a cobbler is its elaborate garnish. The top of the drink usually sports fresh fruit, such as raspberries, blackberries, strawberries, or oranges (sometimes all at once).
Back in the day, most cobblers were made with sherry. But Victorian mixologists sometimes substituted other liquors. So you could have a Brandy Cobbler, a Rum Cobbler, a Gin Cobbler—or whatever you fancied.
Since sherry was the original spirit of choice, that’s what we feature in our recipe. But what kind of sherry should you use? Most any kind will work, though we find that this drink tastes best when made with a fairly dry sherry. A fino, amontillado, or oloroso would be ideal. If you use a cream sherry (which is sweeter), you may want to reduce the amount of simple syrup specified in the recipe. (Disclosure: We used cream sherry for the pictures in this post simply because its color is so nice.)
This recipe calls for 4 ounces of sherry (which you can reduce to 3 if you prefer). Despite that hefty portion, the drink contains less “punch” than you might think. That’s because sherry is a fortified wine, with an alcoholic content that usually runs about 17% (34 proof). By contrast, most spirits (like gin or whiskey) are 80 proof and up. BTW, because sherry has a low proof, it can oxidize fairly quickly once it’s opened, making its flavor less bright. So after we open a bottle, we usually store it in the refrigerator to retard the oxidation process.
Our recipe is adapted from one presented by cocktail historian extraordinaire David Wondrich. See Notes for some variations on our recipe.
This drink takes about 5 minutes to prepare, and serves one.
- 4 ounces of sherry, preferably a dry variety (see recipe headnote; may decrease to 3 ounces if you wish)
- 2 to 4 teaspoons of homemade simple syrup (to taste; may substitute store-bought simple syrup, or even finely granulated white sugar)
- 1 slice of orange, cut in half
- garnish of fresh fruit or a sprig of mint (whatever is in season; raspberries, blackberries, strawberries, and oranges are all ideal)
- Add all ingredients (except garnish) to a cocktail shaker that is half-filled with ice. Shake until well blended (20 seconds or so), then strain into a tall glass filled with crushed ice (see Notes for suggestions on the type of glass to use).
- Top up with additional crushed ice if necessary. Add fruit garnish and a pair of straws, and serve.
- This drink is probably best served in a tall glass that holds 10 to 12 ounces. We often like to use a hurricane glass (as shown in the pictures), or you can use a wine goblet if you prefer.
- Including a slice of orange when shaking this cocktail adds a hint of citrus flavor to the drink. Some people skip the slice, and substitute ¼ ounce or so of Grand Marnier or orange curaçao. I haven’t tried this, but it sounds wonderful.
- Some drinkers like to muddle the orange slice with granulated sugar in the bottom of the shaker, then add the ice and sherry and shake. That’s more work than my method, but it sounds interesting.
- Other imbibers prefer to half-fill a shaker with crushed ice (as in Step 1), then shake as directed and pour the shaker’s contents into a serving glass without straining. That works, but we find the drink tastes better if you use fresh ice in the serving glass (as the recipe directs).
- As noted above, you don’t need to use sherry in a cobbler. You can substitute whiskey, rum, brandy, wine, or almost any spirit you can imagine. Feel free to experiment with our basic recipe for the Sherry Cobbler, but be aware: If you’re substituting 80-proof spirits, using 4 ounces will make a very strong drink. So you may want to reduce the amount to 3 ounces (or even less).
- If you substitute sparkling wine for sherry, don’t shake the drink. Instead, add both the sparkler and the simple syrup to a glass filled with crushed ice. Stir the drink briefly with a spoon, then top up with crushed ice and garnish.
- You can make your cobbler more elaborate by adding pineapple, lemon, or other ingredients. I prefer the more standard version myself. But if you like fancy drinks, take a look at Dale DeGroof’s The Craft of the Cocktail. He has an extensive section on cobblers (with many interesting recipes).
- Sherry originated in the Cádiz province of Spain (specifically, around the town of Jerez de la Frontera). This region has produced wine for over 3000 years. Sherry was developed after Moorish invaders introduced distillation to the area, probably sometime during the 8th century AD.
- In the EU, any fortified wine sold as sherry must be made in a specific region of Cádiz. In the US, however, “sherry” can be used as a generic name for domestically produced fortified wines.
- There are numerous varieties of sherry. Fino is the driest (and probably the best known); it typically has a very pale color. Amontillado is darker, and oloroso is darker still. Wikipedia offers a useful list that describes the different types of sherry.
- Before refrigeration was developed, ice was a precious commodity. In pre-fridge days, “harvesters” typically would cut large blocks of ice from frozen lakes, ponds, and rivers during the winter. Then they would store the ice in insulated buildings for use throughout the year.
- The cobbler was one of the first drinks to incorporate ice—then a costly (and thus probably upscale) ingredient. The original cobbler likely was developed as a sweet, refreshing summer drink (almost all alcoholic drinks were sweeter in the 19th century than they are today). Bartenders didn’t have machines to create crushed ice back then, so they would pound chunks of ice in canvas sacks. This produced little ice “pebbles” that resembled the cobblestones used to pave streets. Hence, the name “cobbler.”
- The cobbler was also among the first drinks to use a straw. In fact, David Wondrich calls the cobbler the “killer app” for the straw—which drinkers apparently used to protect their teeth from those ice pebbles. They found this necessary because, in the 19th century, most people seem to have had pretty bad teeth by the time they reached adulthood (dentistry hadn’t progressed very far at the time). Ice in contact with decayed teeth? Yelp!
- The earliest drinking straws date back to at least 3000 BC. They originally were made from gold or other metals (for the swells) or plant stalks (for the hoi polloi). During the 19th century, straws made of rye grass become common, although they turned soft and mushy with prolonged exposure to liquid. Paper drinking straws were patented in 1888, by Marvin Stone.
- As if popularizing ice and drinking straws weren’t enough, the cobbler is notable for another reason as well: It gave its name to the three-piece cocktail shaker (the metal type with a bottom mixing container, a top with a built-in strainer, and a small cap covering the opening for the strainer). Cobblers were among the first drinks to require shaking, and the 3-piece shaker was developed to make mixing them easier.
- No one is quite sure when the cobbler was invented, but it dates back at least to 1809. That’s when Washington Irving mentioned it in his book A History of New York.
Bring Back the Cobbler!
“Who knew sherry could work so well in a cocktail?” said Mrs. Kitchen Riffs, taking a long sip.
“Yeah, I’m surprised this drink ever fell out of favor,” I said.
“Well, I guess sherry does have an ‘old fogey’ reputation,” said Mrs K R. “I mean, it was probably the favorite drink of the Dowager Countess of Grantham, back in Downton Abbey days.”
“Right,” I said. “She no doubt consumed it in carefully measured portions, served in teeny glasses.”
“Ah, well,” said Mrs K R. “I’m just glad this drink opened my eyes to what sherry can do. This is outstanding.”
“Hey, speaking of old fogies,” I said. “Did you catch the bag boy at the supermarket today? He asked if I needed help out to the car with our order! That little punk must think I’m over the hill.”
“Now, now,” said Mrs K R. “He was just a kid.”
“Yeah, I’m not sure he was even shaving yet,” I said.
“Besides, that store prides itself on customer service,” said Mrs K R. “They probably give the bag boys guidelines on how to treat shoppers.”
“Yes, I suppose so,” I said, harrumphing.
“Maybe even little rhymes to remind them,” said Mrs K R. “You know, like ‘grey scalp, needs help.’” She smiled broadly, glancing at my silvery locks.
Sigh. Maybe I should stock up on sherry. And teeny weeny glasses.
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Gosh, I haven't tasted sherry in a drink in years. I tried it once and, well, you can tell it is not on my drink rotation, but I am open to trying it again as our tastes change as we mature. I do have some in the cabinet for my lobster bisque, and I love that. I'm going to have to try this. It looks really refreshing.
I happen to be one of those old fogeys who loves sherry, although a brandy cobbler would probably suit more of the household. Looks like a delicious drink! Salud!
Hi Karen, this is a totally refreshing drink! Try this, and you'll think of sherry differently. ;-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Lydia, I'm an old fogey too! The brandy cobbler is quite good too -- I almost went with that for the post. But sherry is traditional and was the most popular, so the choice was easy in the end. Thanks for the comment.
What a gorgeous cocktail!! No need to stock up on sherry because of a little gray (but do stock up for this drink)!!
Hi, Loved your post on this cobbler. Never had one, but it looks so cool and refreshing. I love the idea of all the beautiful fruits on top and the straws. Sherry, wow...I haven't used that in many years. This one sounds really good especially if it is not that strong. Liked your notes and enjoyed hearing from Mrs. KR. Have a great holiday weekend....Dottie :)
Never hear of this drink or cobbled ice. Makes since. We have started to notice that our demographics are changing and that a lot of the restaurants we go to we tend to be the youngest ones there. It bothers The Hubs immensely and he thinks we are dating ourselves. LOL.
Oh how I love learning new things, John. I had never heard of a cobbler drink before. Very interesting:) Cobbler desserts? Yes. Sherry? Yes, yes...My aunt and uncle would stop their day, every single day I might add, at exactly 4PM and sit down to sip. Many times I remember my aunt simply sipping her Sherry:)
This drink sounds like dessert in a glass. I've bookmarked it not only because I would love to one day make it, but also because I actually did a post about Marvin Stone and the invention of the drinking straw many moons ago. I've been trying to update it before National Drinking Straw Day in January! Now, I have even more of an incentive!
Thank you so much for sharing, John...I'm thinking that young man at the supermarket was just trying to be kind:)
I used to love a glass of sherry after dinner. Now it is nice to know I can have one before, too! Lots of fun facts in this post, John. And you are a touch gray? I'm not-anymore!
Hi Kristy, we always have sherry on hand (I often substitute it for rice wine in stir-fries) but rarely use it in cocktails. That's going to change! Thanks for the comment.
Hi Dottie, this drink is sooo worth having, plus it's fun to go wild with the garnish. I hope you have a great weekend too, and thanks for the comment.
Hi Debra, just keep hubs away from the supermarket checkout counter (and the helpful bag boys) and he'll be fine. ;-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Louise, I'm sure the young man was just be kind. ;-) But I'm buying more sherry! Thanks for the comment.
Hi Abbe, if you like sherry, you'll totally love this drink -- it's wonderful. At least IMO. ;-) I'm actually just prematurely grey. :D Thanks for the comment.
Hi John , I was so afraid I would miss you today , but here I am with a ice tea glass in my hand so fill it up . I need it , make it strong ;-D
Another great drink I will try . Thanks so much for sharing :)
Wow, for something that looks so fancy, this is a really simple drink!
Hi Nee, this really is a wonderful drink. And better than iced tea! ;-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Mary Frances, it really is a simple drink. Other than the garnish, of course. ;-) Thanks for the comment.
Never tried Sherry in a Cocktail but this combination with fresh juice and berries looks and sounds fantastic.
Interesting to read the story behind the drink.
It' s like summer in a glass, so yummy :)
I don't know my favorite part of your informative post? The straw to accomodate bad teeth? Egads. I could have used your sherry information when I was recently trying to select one for a recipe. But I must admit that your conversation with Mrs. KR about shopping is very near and dear to my heart. Cheers! Rocquie
There used to be a cooking show, the guy cooked Cajun. People would ask what type of wine goes with that, and he would say, "What kind you got?" It always made me laugh. I'm almost afraid to make this, but I am pinning in case someone comes along that is feeling festive.
This looks like something to enjoy on a South-Pacific holiday. It looks so tropical. I haven't had a sherry for a very long time and never knew it was also used in cocktails. This is a very pretty drink xx
John, this is just beautiful!!! You just post the prettiest drink concoctions and I swear you are going to convert me from a wine drinker to a 'pretty drink' drinker. I love all the history lessons you provide. So glad I read the post as the only cobbler I knew was a one-crust fruit type pie, ha-ha. :) Thanks for sharing.
Hi Daniela, this really is summer in a glass! ;-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Rocquie, that straw & bad teeth thing is interesting, isn't it? Egads indeed! Thanks for the comment.
Hi Madonna, that show was hosted by Justin Wilson, I believe. I used to watch it too! This really is a great drink, and very refreshing -- definitely worth a try when you have some sherry on hand. Thanks for the comment.
Hi Charlie, this would be perfect on a South-Pacific holiday! Or just at the beach or pool. ;-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Pat, I used to drink wine and beer only, until I started reading about cocktails. It was their histories that got me hooked -- and once tasted, the flavor. ;-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi John, another great drink post, as always love the commentary between Mrs K.R. and yourself. Very interesting history behind this one.
Did you say 'cobbler'? Oh, my! This drink looks even more scrumptious now...and so appealing that I could drink all by myself! Happy 4th of July, John!
Woooooo, summery and delicious, John... love the story too!
Hi Cheri, isn't this drink fun? And Mrs K R and I enjoy those conversations, too. ;-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Denise, this really is such a great drink -- who knew sherry worked so well in a cocktail? Thanks for the comment.
Hi Lizzy, isn't this great? So refreshing! Of course, you could have one and pretend its summer. ;-) Thanks for the comment.
What a perfect summertime drink. That looks so refreshing and eating the fruit gives you something to do if you get bored. :)
Marvelously fruity and refreshing! A beautiful cocktail.
These look and sound absolutely amazing! this is just beautiful!!!
Manuella ( french )
What a summery, sunny and delicious cocktail idea :D
Choc Chip Uru
Now this looks like a refreshing summer drink. You can't buy teeny weenie glasses as how would you fit all the fruit inside. BTW I call those curly locks- platinum blondes. Have a super weekend! BAM
Hi Maureen, trust me, you won't get bored with this drink. But the fruit is delicious! ;-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Rosa, this is really great -- perfect for a Friday drink! Thanks for the comment.
Hi Manuella, it's really a wonderful drink -- both tasty and pretty! Thanks for the comment.
Hi Uru, it's really a fun drink -- worth trying sometime. Thanks for the comment.
Hi Bam, you're right about the teeny glasses and the fruit! And who wants to drink sherry without a garnish? ;-) Thanks for the comment.
What a crowd pleaser!!!!!!! I am in love with the look of this drink :)
I'm not familiar with sherry in a cocktail but then far be it from me to ever presume we'll every know EVERYTHING about the spirit world (as in booze not ghosts!). Looks so perfectly summer; thanks for a new idea John. I did publish a cocktail last year called a Blue Hawaii; it's similar though only in it's fruity garnish; maybe that came about from this drink!!
This does sound yummy John and a perfect refresher for the 4th. I love how tropical it looks. I bet this is a strong drink, isn't it.
Ouch! I haven't heard that particular rhyme before. I'm sure he was just taking friendly customer service to its logical conclusion, right?
Such a beautiful cocktail! Love all the fruit in it! Fruit soaked in alcohol is one of the best things on earth.
I have never ever heard of a cobbler. Beautiful drink. Thanks for sharing John and have a great Holiday weekend.
Hi Gigi, this really is a crowd pleaser! Terrific drink. Thanks for the comment.
Hi Barb, a lot of the tiki (and tiki-style) drinks have a fruit garnish -- probably an influence from the Caribbean (where a lot of the rum drinks developed). It's a good question how/why this drink got its garnish -- I've always thought it odd, but it does look pretty, doesn't it? Thanks for the comment.
Hi VIcki, this is actually a pretty light drink in terms of alcohol -- maybe equivalent to a 5 ounce glass of wine, or probably a little bit more. And this is one that you'll probably sip over the course of about an hour, so really not bad at all. Thanks for the comment.
Hi Beth, oh, the bag boy was just doing his job -- we often get offered to help out with the drink. We were actually joking about it on the walk to the car (I had just had a birthday, so Mrs K R was teasing me about aging) and Mrs K R actually came up with the rhyme. ;-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Laura, isn't this nice? Totally terrific flavor -- so worth trying. Thanks for the comment.
Hi Lea Ann, most people probably haven't heard of this drink. Too bad, because it has a wonderful flavor -- definitely worth reviving. Thanks for the comment, and I hope you have a great holiday, too.
That cobbler is calling my name John!! Looks precious, perfect for a temperamental 4th of July evening. Yummm!!
As always what an interesting post. I love the look of it. First drink to use ice and a straw----amazing---and the shaker too. Good heavens. I have to commit some of this to memory. I can see my social star rising. Or is that Bad Moon rising?
Hi Minnie, we'll be drinking these tomorrow. ;-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Carol, no need to commit it to memory -- just remember the KR url and you'll be set. ;-) This drink would be your social star rising. Zombies would be Bad Moon rising. ;-) Thanks for the comment.
Looks like a holiday poolside sipper. GREG
Hi Greg, yup, that's the plan. ;-) Thanks for the comment.
What a lovely summery drink! I've never had a cobbler before.
Looks delicious, and I love all of the fresh fruit on top! Yum!!
I've miss hopping over to your space for delicious cocktails, John. So glad to be back :)
Hi Natalie, this really is worth trying -- such good flavor! Thanks for the comment.
Hi Kristi, although the drink itself is quite good, that garnish is awesome, isn't it? Thanks for the comment.
Hi Kiran, good to see you again! And thanks for stopping by.
I love how you find these little-known cocktails. This one looks like a veritable fruit cocktail in a glass, too. My kind of sip!
Hi Carolyn, it really does look like a fruit cocktail, doesn't it? Tastes better, though. ;-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi John, I learned something new from you, that's a very interesting cobbler cocktail. Thanks for sharing this great info. This cocktail is awesome and beautiful. Love your very impressive pictures.
Happy 4th July and have a nice weekend. Regards.
Hi Amelia, isn't this an interesting drink? Lots of history, and the flavor is excellent! Thanks for the comment.
Never heard about a drinkable cobbler; it is so beautiful! It also has a lot of history, loved all the story behind it. Sherry has always been really popular in the UK, don't know why really, but I've heard about it since I was a child. Here in the US, don't really hear much about sherry or sherry based drinks. As you know I don't drink, but I always find your posts fascinating!
LOL! Another fun and witty dialogue to match the fun drink! Love the pics!
Hi Nazneen, the part of Spain where sherry is made isn't all that far from Gibraltar, which the British have possessed for ages -- so I suspect that's partially why sherry is so popular in the UK. Anyway, isn't the story behind this drink so interesting? I find it almost more interesting than the drink itself! Thanks for the comment.
Hi Julie, we do enjoy those ending conversations. ;-) Thanks for the comment.
Haha...gray scalp, needs help! And such a beautiful cocktail...thanks for bringing some of these obscure drinks to our attention!
Hi Liz, ;-) This really is a great cocktail -- and so worth trying. It has a lovely flavor. Thanks for the comment.
How fun John, never heard of a Cobbler Cocktail. It's beautiful and sounds delicious!
Hi Chris, this isn't a well known drink these days, although it should be! It's delish. ;-) Thanks for the comment.
What a great drink to choose to make a revival! I love sherry but find very few people that do, except when I go to visit my mother in her assisted living home. Most of the older woman that live there "love their sherry" (as my teatotaler mother says). :) With the simple syrup and orange I think even my mother would love this cobbler. I know I would! Love the etymology of the word "cobbler". Thanks John!
Hi MJ, there's a lot of interesting lore with this drink, isn't there. But most of all, the flavor is awesome -- particularly for a sherry lover. You'll like this. Thanks for the comment.
The first time I've heard of a cobbler cocktail but if anyone would know about one, it would certainly be you. It sounds like a very refreshing summer drink.
Hi Karen, it is really refreshing! And such a pleasant flavor -- very nice. Thanks for the comment.
Your drinks always looks so lovely and makes me so so thirsty. I've made a decision though, until Ramadan ends I will come to your blog ONLY after sunset :).
Hi Amira, I couldn't imagine going to any blog before sundown during Ramadan! Thanks for the comment.
Yes, please! This looks so refreshing!
I have to agree with Mrs KR. I've always thought of sherry as ‘old fogey’ too, but clearly I need to give it a try. I like the lower alcohol content too. We're heading off to stay with family in 90 degree weather. This drink would be perfect.
Such a nice drink with all the summer colors. And when you put cobbler in the name, it is practically summer dessert :)
Hi Alyssa, this really is so great for hot weather! We had it again this weekend. ;-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Kristi, some of the US "sherry" isn't that interesting, but I've never had one from Spain that wasn't worth having. And sherry really works so well in this drink -- it's really excellent. Thanks for the comment.
Hi Ilke, I always used to thing of cobblers as desserts (and still do), but this drink certainly expands the definition of a cobbler, doesn't it? Thanks for the comment.
So it's about 81 degrees now on cape cod, our humidity is at it's highest level.
Normally I don't drink alcohol when it's this hot, BUT, this does look so good, so refreshing right about now.
Hi Dawn, it's about 10 degrees warmer here with high humidity, so yes, this sounds very refreshing! And is. ;-) Thanks for the comment.
Are you saying I can DRINK a cobbler now?! I love this, John!
This drink looks so pretty and delicious...perfect for the warm weather...love the fresh fruits.
Have a wonderful week John :D
This does look like a welcome drink on a hot summer day - I don't think I've ever had a drink with sherry - may be time to fix that!
Hi Ashley, yup, a drinkable cobbler. ;-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Juliana, isn't that garnish nice? And the drink is even better! Thanks for the comment.
Hi Donalyn, sherry is in a few cocktails, but not many. But it's outstanding in this one -- really worth trying. Thanks for the comment.
Fruity summery delicious! Perfect with barbecues
Wow! I love the sound and look of this drink! Need to make this soon. So gorgeous!
Hi Raymund, this is a terrific drink to accompany BBQ! Or anything else, for that matter. ;-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Asmita, isn't this a nice drink? Looks good, tastes better! Thanks for the comment.
I always learn so much about the history of cocktails from your posts, John! So very interesting! Thanks for all the education and another beautiful cocktail. Great post!
Oh my gosh, this is gorgeous. You are the king of drinks.
Hi Bill, I find cocktail history so fascinating! The drinks are fun to drink too, of course, but it's really the stories behind them that I really like. Thanks for the comment.
Hi Kim, isn't this pretty? The garnishes for this drink might be the best ever. Thanks for the comment.
Today we have 90F with humidity in Tokyo. I'm looking at this photo now fan blowing my face... I wish I can grab these drinks (yes two!) and drink it all up. Looks so good!
Hi Nami, this is a drink I think you'd enjoy -- not too high of an alcoholic content. Plus really excellent flavor. Perfect for hot weather with high humidity! Thanks for the comment.
Now THAT'S a cocktail I could get into. Bookmarking it for the warmer months... its freezing in Sydney at the moment.
Hi Amanda, this would be OK in the cold weather, but this drink absolutely shines in warm weather! Thanks for the comment.
What a lovely cocktail recipe, a dessert in a glass! I love that Sherry is sweet, yet strong and smooth. I look forward to trying this gorgeous cocktail! Beautiful, Take Care, Terra
Hi Terra, this really is so good -- such great flavor. Thanks for the comment.
I think I will have a rum cobbler though I like the idea of the low alcohol content in the sherry one. That was so interesting about ice being an expensive commodity - we take refrigeration so much for granted.
Hi Suzanne, rum cobblers are good! Heavier than the sherry version, of course, but still really refreshing. Thanks for the comment.
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