The Sherry Cobbler is an American-born cocktail by most accounts. Simply sherry, sugar and citrus, shaken, poured over crushed ice and slurped through a straw, the Cobbler is thought to have originated sometime in the 1820s or early 1830s. But like most 19th century drinks, its origins are foggy.
Cocktail historian David Wondrich is credited with digging up the first-known mention of the Sherry Cobbler from the 1838 diary of Katherine Jane Ellice, a Canadian who took note of the drink while traveling in the U.S. But its great launching pad to international renown came courtesy of Charles Dickens and his The Life and Adventures of Martin Chuzzlewit (1843-44). In a scene now famous among cocktail dorks, Chuzzlewit, reacting to his first Sherry Cobbler, sums up the 19th-century sentiment around the drink: “Martin took the glass with an astonished look; applied his lips to the reed; and cast up his eyes once in ecstasy. He paused no more until the goblet was drained to the last drop. ‘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.’” Certainly Chuzzlewit was astonished at the drink’s beauty, but also at the act of sipping through a straw—a novel concept at the time. Were it not for the Sherry Cobbler, which is credited with introducing the straw to popular consciousness, we might still be dumping ice down our chins to get to the bottom of a drink.