Like many vodka-based classics from decades past, the Cape Codder—a mix of vodka, cranberry juice and a splash of lime—has largely been neglected by cocktail revivalists. But, as bartenders continue their ironic re-imagining of weathered drinks like the Cosmo, it’s worth considering: Does the perennial East Coast favorite deserve a second chance?
Luke, I Am Your Codder
Originally named the Red Devil when marketed by Ocean Spray in 1945, this straightforward drink became known as the Cape Codder (or, simply, the Cape Cod) as early as 1965, the year The New Yorker declared it “America’s newest cocktail creation.”
Since then, its popularity has ebbed and flowed with that of vodka—save for in its namesake region, where the easy-drinking cocktail remains a pre-fall staple (when cranberries first come into season). Its name alone evokes a keen sense of place that, taken together with its close siblings, the Bay Breeze (a Cape Codder plus pineapple) and the Sea Breeze (a Cape Codder plus grapefruit), hints at the context in which this drink is best enjoyed.
Among the most refreshing of modern interpretations comes from Lauren Corriveau of New York’s Nitecap, whose aptly named Coast to Coast builds on a base of St. George Spirits’ California Citrus Vodka, plus cranberry shrub, tonic water and a few drops of saline solution, for a bi-coastal tribute to the East Coast staple.
In Miami, the Broken Shaker duo, Elad Zvi and Gabriel Orta, put their own twist on the formula, adding measures of Cocchi Americano and housemade cranberry vinegar, and opting to serve the typically tall mixture as a short serve, on the rocks. Will Elliott’s Cape Codder, meanwhile, hews closely to the original, with a few small upgrades: His drink, which builds on a base of Axberg vodka, calls on a half-ounce of cranberry cordial and gets added depth from a dash of Angostura, plus a touch of fizz with its soda water topper.
All in all, they’re reason enough to reconsider the vodka-cranberry, and maybe even give it its due.