Discover The Sherry Cobbler, A Refreshing Cocktail Bartenders Love

By Melissa McEwen in Food on Aug 21, 2015 5:30PM

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Photo courtesy of The Dogma Group

You may have spotted the word "cobbler" on your favorite cocktail menus recently. No, it's not a fruit dessert, but a refreshing and versatile drink historically made with sherry, sugar and fruit over a bounty of crushed ice. For a long time, it's been the kind of drink that only insiders like sommeliers and bartenders order, but now, a new generation of beverage directors is bringing it to a new audience.

The sherry cobbler is one of the oldest classic cocktails, with the earliest documented references dating back to the 1830s. It’s also quite low proof, with sherry or fortified wines used as the base spirit. But the rest is up to one’s imagination, and Chicago bartenders are reinventing the classic formula.

Leading this movement is The Dogma Group, a supergroup of bartenders that creates and consults for many of the top bars in Chicago.

For Dogma's Clint Rogers, it all began in New Orleans, where bars like Bellocq have entire pages in their beverage menus devoted to the cobbler. Rogers delved into the drink’s history by reading Imbibe!: From Absinthe Cocktail to Whiskey Smash, a Salute in Stories and Drinks to "Professor" Jerry Thomas, Pioneer of the American Bar Featuring the Original Formulae..

"The drinks in New Orleans are more classic, but we are more willing to experiment with things like interesting garnishes," says Rogers. At Presidio, teammate Alex Renshaw puts garnishes front and center in the Banana Cobbler, a creation consisting of oloroso sherry, brown sugar cooked banana and lemon, garnished with freshly shaved nutmeg and slices of bittersweet dried banana that add a new dimension to the drink when you snack on one and take a sip. It's a preparation that toes the line between tiki and cobbler.

At Bordel (1721 W. Division St., upstairs from Black Bull) Dogma sticks with just a simple cobbler on the menu, but changes their recipe depending on what they find at The Green City Market.

At The Dawson (730 W Grand Ave.) they highlight the cobbler with beautiful glasses to heighten the presentation and wild, bright flavorings like black pepper and a hint of blackstrap rum—though only a little so the drink stays low proof.

Rogers admits it's not their most popular drink. "We don't mind the cobbler taking up a place on the menu; it's never the top selling drink. But it's wine-based, so it's very inexpensive, [and] that allows us to spend money on the garnish. It's honestly a bartender and sommelier drink," Rogers told Chicagoist.

But they hope to pique the public's interest in the drink at Black Bull (1721 W Division St.) with several variations of the cobbler on the menu. "Mike Ryan did this on his menus with gin and tonics, we also did this with pisco punches at Presidio, and Pub Royale has this with Pimm's Cup variations. We find variations led people to curiosity about the drink" says Renshaw.

You can also find cobblers on the menu at Bom Bolla, The Game Room/Lobby at The Chicago Athletic Association, Billy Sunday and Dusek's.

As summer wanes in Chicago with a sudden goodbye of high temperatures and humidity, the cobbler is the perfect, if not unconventional, refreshment. And when autumn comes, you can bet the team at Dogma will be eagerly adapting the drink to the changing season.

This is part of a series here at Chicagoist focusing on low-proof cocktails. We hope to highlight the best, so stay-tuned for further chapters in the Low-Proof series.