"Cobblers were the air conditioning of the 19th century."
Dave Wondrich, the most respected cocktail authority on the planet, once called the sherry cobbler “the air conditioning of the 19th-century” — and we’ve never forgotten it. In its simplest form, the cobbler is nothing but sherry, sugar, a little fruit, and tons of ice. Since sherry is so low-proof, just a little boozier than wine, it’s possible to drink these ice-cold drinks all day. And in an era long before frozen strawberry daiquiris, drinkers of the era knew just as well as we did that fruit + booze + crushed ice is as refreshing as it gets.
Though it’s hard to imagine now, ice was in short supply in the 19th century, and straws almost unheard of. It was, in fact, the sherry cobbler that popularized the straw, and Americans have loved it ever since. So this summer, salute history with a genuine sherry cobbler. We promise you’ll find it just as thirst-quenching and irresistible as our forefathers did.
Here’s the absolute key to a great cobbler: Cobbled ice, also known as nugget ice or pellet ice. Crushed ice can work here, but it’ll melt more quickly. The whole idea of a cobbler is that you can nurse one, sipping slowly as the drink stays ice-cold but doesn’t immediately get watered-down.
Our favorite new home-bartending toy this summer, by leaps and bounds, is the Opal Nugget Ice Machine — a countertop ice maker that was popular enough to raise over $2.7 million in funding on Indiegogo. It’s compact, super-simple to set up, and can crank out a pound of ice within an hour. And it’s perfect ice—the chewy, crunchable little pellets you get in the best fountain sodas. It’s an obvious indulgence, but we can’t get enough.
Easy: Classic Sherry Cobbler
For this absolute classic, we’re using medium-bodied amontillado sherry, along with orange and sugar — that’s it. Instead of juicing the oranges, we’re muddling them, which means the delicious orange oils come along for the ride. It’s the Platonic ideal of a brunch drink, like a mimosa but a hundred times better.
Instructions: In the bottom of a cocktail shaker, muddle 1/4 of an orange, cut into several pieces. Add 1/2 ounce of simple syrup and 2 1/2 ounces of amontillado sherry. Shake until very well-chilled, then strain into a glass with nugget ice. Garnish with a few thin fanned-out orange slices and a straw.
Intermediate: Raspberry-Lemon Cobbler
An even more summery version, swapping out amontillado for super dry, slightly savory manzanilla sherry, along with lemon and raspberry, plus a float of sparkling wine, because we’re into that kind of thing. It’s a big drink; choose your glass accordingly.
Instructions: In the bottom of a cocktail shaker, muddle 1/2 of a lemon, cut into several pieces; then add 8 raspberries and muddle a bit more. Add 1 ounce of honey syrup (honey dissolved in an equal of hot water) and 3 ounces of manzanilla sherry (or fino, if you can’t find manzanilla). Shake until very well-chilled, then double-strain into a glass with nugget ice. Top with 1/2 ounce of sparkling wine. Garnish with a few thin lemon wheels, raspberries, and a straw.
Advanced: Oloroso-Montenegro Cobbler
We love the rich, nutty flavors of oloroso sherry, which we’re showing off in this killer cobbler. Along with citrus, we’re using the Italian liqueur Amaro Montenegro, still reasonably low in proof, but with bittersweet orange flavors that meld beautifully with the sherry. And as you may have noticed at this point, the more garnish, the better.
Instructions: In the bottom of a cocktail shaker, muddle 1/4 of an orange and 1/4 of a lemon. Add 1/4 ounce of demerara syrup (raw sugar dissolved in an equal part of hot water), 2 ounces of oloroso sherry, and 1/2 ounce of Amaro Montenegro. Shake until very well-chilled, then strain into a glass with nugget ice. Garnish with a straw and go crazy on the fruit — thin fanned-out orange slices, lemon wheels, and berries upon berries.