“‘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.'” – from Martin Chuzzlewit, Charles Dickens, 1844
According to drink historian David Wondrich, the Sherry Cobbler was one of the most popular drinks both in the United States and abroad from about the 1840s through the 1880s. Part of its popularity was due to the Victorian fascination with ice, which became much easier to obtain starting in the 1830s. The name “cobbler,” in fact, most likely refers to the “cobbles” of ice in the drink.
This particular recipe comes from Jerry Thomas’s 1862 manual The Bartender’s Guide. As Thomas says, it “does not require much skill in compounding;” all you need to do is put 4 oz of sherry, 1 tbsp of sugar, 2 or 3 orange slices, and a lot of ice together and shake it up. David Wondrich recommends dissolving the sugar in an equal amount of water first; I used simple syrup since I had some on hand already.
I did my best to follow Thomas’s instructions to “display some taste in ornamenting the glass.” I used fresh orange slices for the garnish, since the ones used in the shaker looked pretty beaten up. Unfortunately, I didn’t have any straws, which would have made this authentically Victorian; 19th century dentists believed it was unhealthy for ice to touch the teeth (my teeth seemed fine).
I mostly made this recipe because I needed a way to use up all the sherry I bought for making syllabub, and I’ve discovered I don’t particularly like sherry. The Sherry Cobbler was a perfect way to use it. It’s a cool, orange-y drink, perfect for hot weather. Definitely a “delicious potation.”
Dickens, C. (1844). The life and adventures of Martin Chuzzlewit. London: Chapman & Hall. Retrieved from https://www.gutenberg.org/files/968/968-h/968-h.htm
Thomas, J. (1862). The bartender’s guide, a complete cyclopedia of plain and fancy drinks. New York: Dick & Fitzgerald. Retrieved from https://euvs-vintage-cocktail-books.cld.bz/1862-The-bar-tenders-guide-1862-2-50/I
Wondrich, D. (2015). Imbibe!. New York: Perigee.