On a recent very hot Sunday afternoon, a Sherry Cobbler seemed like the thing to drink. The cocktail of sherry, sugar and citrus is ideal for summer sipping, partly because it's low in alcohol, but mostly because it's served over a mound of crushed ice. (Nineteenth-century drinkers were keen to the cobbler's charms: "It was the iconic cocktail of its time, the one that took everyone by storm," New York City bartender Joaquin Simo recently told the Seattle Times. "(It) was the Cosmo of its day - light and refreshing, an accessible drink.") Fortunately, Edmund's Oast serves an excellent rendition.
Early Charlestonians surely drank cobblers, too. In 1839, The Southern Literary Messenger referred to the drink as the period's "greatest liquorary invention." But the sherry drink of greater local renown was the related Sherry Bolo, essentially a cobbler made with limes instead of oranges.
Hugo Ensslin's "Recipes for Mixed Drinks," published in 1916, includes a recipe for a Bolo Cocktail made with Cuban rum, lime juice, lemon juice and powdered sugar, but Bolo had a different meaning in the Lowcountry. "Charleston Receipts" includes a recipe for the drink, reprinted here in its entirety: "3 sherry glasses of sherry; juice of one lime; sugar to taste. Serve with crushed ice."
The Bolo was nearly always paired with benne biscuits, as Eugene Walter noted in "American Cooking: Southern Style," a 1971 entry in the monumental Time-Life Foods of the World series: "Hot biscuits made with toasted benne seeds are enjoyed with a drink called Sherry Bolo, a mixture of sherry, lime juice and sugar."
When food writer Clementine Paddleford visited Charleston in 1952, she was served a Sherry Bolo at Middleton Place.
"Walk and talk, then back to the house to drink Sherry Bolo and eat hot benne biscuits," she wrote. "The Sherry Bolo came in old English wine cups, and made in this manner: three glasses of sherry with the juice of one lime; sugar to taste; pour over crushed ice in six small cups."
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