Classic Cocktail – The Sherry Cobbler

This story appeared in the December issue of Australian Bartender magazine.

By Simon McGoram

The Sherry Cobbler – a tag with a familiar ring to it. No doubt a few of you are well acquainted with this beverage and even for those who have never compounded one must admit the name rolls comfortably off the tongue. You see this libation is in your bartending DNA – the Sherry Cobbler was the Mojito, the Caipiroska, the Lychee Martini (combined) of its day. During the 1850s there was simply no more famous mixed drink in the world.

The Sherry Cobbler, like many of the greatest potent potables, is an American invention. David Wondrich tells us in Imbibe! that a Victorian novelist by the name of Charles Reade in 1863 lists the Sherry Cobbler foremost in his list of American mixtures ahead of Gin Sling, Cocktail, Mint Julep, Brandy Smash, Sudden Death and Eye Openers. Wondrich adds: “If someone had waved Reade’s little list under the nose of the average drinking man in 1863 and made him choose one drink to stand the test of time, odds are heavy that he would’ve gone for the Sherry Cobbler”.

All well and good – but what exactly is a Sherry Cobbler? Well it’s a simple mix of sherry (a nutty oloroso or amontillado works a treat), sugar and crushed ice. Jerry Thomas writes in How to Mix Drinks or the Bon Vivant’s Companion that “The ‘cobbler’ does not require much skill in compounding, but to make it acceptable to the eye, it is necessary to display some taste in ornamenting the glass after the beverage is made”. Here’s how:

Sherry Cobbler

The classic - Sherry Cobbler

  • 120ml dry Oloroso or Amontillado sherry
  • 15ml sugar syrup
  • 2 or 3 slices of orange

*Add ingredients to a shaker. Fill with shaved ice, shake well and pour into a fancy bar glass. Cap with a little more ice and ornament with berries in season. Imbibe through a straw.

INTERESTING FACT: Such was the Sherry Cobbler’s fame that in 1855 you could easily order one in Sydney, Australia. George Street’s Café Francaise (better know as simply ‘the Café’) was famed for theirs. An article in Bell’s Life in Sydney and Sporting Reviewer from Saturday 17 November, 1855 entitled ‘Thirsty Times’ explains that due to the unseasonably hot weather:

…Large quantities of ale,

porter, lemonade, ginger beer, &c., &c., were

disposed of; whilst among the more fastidious,

sherry cobblers, mint juleps, ice creams, fruit

ices, Catherina Hayes’s, &c., &c, were in great

request. The hotels and other similar establishments

had an unusually large number of visitors,

particularly the Cafe in George Street, which

enjoys quite a reputation for the compounding of

summer drinks.