A glance around any cocktail bar will reveal a trio of likely suspects: martinis, Manhattans and, more recently, cosmopolitans. These three drinks have become so ubiquitous I wouldn't be surprised to find that bartenders have forgotten how to make anything else. Don't get me wrong--they're perfectly fine drinks. They're just a little too predictable for my taste. I like to drink what other people have yet to discover or, in the case of the four styles that follow, rediscover.
Shrubs & Bounces
These playful-sounding drinks, which are both made with a fruit base and brandy or rum, actually date from Colonial days. Their interchangeable names have little meaning, although the word shrub is probably derived from the Arabic shurb, meaning "drink." (Bounce has no clear origin.) My favorite is the West Indian shrub, a drink brought to the States from Bermuda in the 1930s by Charles H. Baker, Jr. In his book The Gentleman's Companion, Baker suggests using wild or "tame" cherries for this drink, although blackberries also work well.
The origin of these tall, iced wine- or spirits-based drinks is unknown, but Washington Irving and Charles Dickens were among their early promoters. Dickens introduced cobblers (an American creation) to the British in his 1844 novel, Martin Chuzzlewit: "This wonderful invention, Sir...it is called a cobbler. Sherry cobbler, when you name it long; cobbler when you name it short." In the 1862 edition of Bartender's Guide: The Bon-Vivant's Companion, Jerry Thomas explains that presentation is key. "The 'cobbler' does not require much skill in compounding, but to make it acceptable to the eye, as well as to the palate, it is necessary to display some taste in ornamenting the glass," he writes.