Think of it as a Cape Codder updated “for the modern, Cosmopolitan-ordering vodka drinker,” explains Lauren Corriveau, who created the playful Coast to Coast during her time at the now-shuttered New York bar Nitecap.
While the drink never made it to Nitecap’s menu, it was very much in keeping with a specific section of the menu that offered jazzed-up takes on classic “one and ones”—like the vodka-cran—and standards like the Paloma or Tom Collins. “It was a real showcase of our sense of whimsy and an opportunity to redeem drinks that were thought of as ‘lesser than’ in the cocktail world,” recalls Corriveau, now head of creative development and programming at Gin & Luck, the parent company of Death & Co.
At first glance, the drink appears similar to the classic Cape Codder, a blush-hued drink made with vodka and cranberry juice and served over ice in a Collins glass, lime wedge perched on the rim. But the ingredients have been carefully reconstructed to maximize flavor.
Vodka remains the spirituous core of the drink; Corriveau specifies two ounces of St. George Spirits’ California Citrus vodka. “Squeezing a lime wedge into the classic Cape Codder is one of the small touches that can elevate that cocktail,” she explains, “so I brought citrus more fully into the equation.”
The Bay Area distillery’s vodka helped inspire the drink name, Corriveau says: “I wanted to honor both the Cape Codder’s origin, as well as the birthplace of St. George’s delicious Citrus Vodka.”
Coast to Coast
Built on a base of citrus vodka, this modern Cape Codder riff is topped with cranberry shrub, tonic water and a few drops of saline solution.
In place of the much-maligned Ocean Spray, Corriveau engineered a sweet-tart cranberry shrub with frozen cranberries and apple cider vinegar. “Utilizing a shrub made with real cranberries, versus cranberry juice cocktail, allowed me to amp up the tanginess while also utilizing a natural ingredient that hasn’t undergone as much processing,” she notes. Compared to the generous glug of cranberry juice that goes into the classic, the Coast to Coast calls on a mere three-quarters of an ounce of cranberry shrub: “It’s a more intense ingredient than juice cocktail.”
Lengthening the drink with tonic water lightens that intensity; tonic’s sugar content and bitterness also help replicate the mouthfeel of cranberry juice, while adding refreshing effervescence. (“Plain seltzer would have made the drink taste more watered down,” she notes.)
To balance out the bitterness of the cranberry and tonic elements, Corriveau adds three drops of a salt solution. The saline is also “a playful nod to the Cape Codder’s (allegedly) maritime origins,” Corriveau says. Plus, “a little salt never hurts a cocktail.”
The finishing touch, a classic lime wedge, acknowledges the typical Cape Codder garnish. It echoes the citrus note in the vodka, and—like the classic—allows a guest to modify the drink to their liking with a squeeze or two.
In the end, the drink may look like the traditional version, but its thoughtful components make for a more sophisticated, amped-up rendition. Certainly, it’s a long way from the vodka-cran Corriveau remembers first serving as an 18-year-old cocktail waitress during a one-week bartending crash course.
“Does the Cape Codder need rescuing? No,” Corriveau recognizes. But, “Is it fun to get geeky and imaginative with it? Definitely.”