The Reason Vodka Cranberries Are Also Called Cape Codders

Vodka cranberry is a quintessential highball, so chances are you've met before. Now, allow us to introduce you to its fancy-sounding alter ego: the Cape Codder. The drink is named after the Cape Cod resort on the Massachusetts coast, and per the lore, the Cape Codder cocktail might have originated as a marketing scheme, invented by the Ocean Spray company during the 1940s to promote cranberry juice sales. Ocean Spray is based in Plymouth, Massachusetts, and sources much of its cranberry harvest from the state — a region famous for its natural crop of cranberry bogs.

Either way, the marketing tactic clearly worked. The Cape Codder was spotted at New England beach bars and Manhattan restaurant Pierre's in 1945. Then, in 1965, an ad for the drink appeared in print in The New Yorker magazine, and another full-page ad cropped up in Time magazine in 1966.

The drink was originally called the Red Devil during its advent in the 1940s, but in the seminal 1972 mixology handbook "Trader Vic's Bartender's Guide," it was called a Rangoon Ruby. The Cape Codder moniker finally stuck during the 1980s and became especially popular with fashionable metropolitan cocktail fans of the era. Vivid hues and sweet-tart flavors were also hallmarks of '80s cocktails, which make this timeless two-parter a natural (and ultimately enduring) character.

The region behind the recipe

The cocktail is just vodka and cranberry juice over ice. However, some purist mixologists might be eager to tell you that a "true" Cape Codder also includes freshly squeezed lime juice and a lime wedge garnish. If you add a splash of soda water, the drink becomes a Cape Cod Cooler or a Rose Kennedy, ostensibly because it was a favorite drink of the Kennedy family matriarch herself. (Indeed, ordering a Cape Codder at a bar in Cleveland, Ohio, will definitely give off generational wealth vibes.) 

Cape Codders are accessible to the palates of novice cocktail drinkers and simple for beginner bartenders to nail — no shaking and no straining. It's dry, refreshing, simple, tart, and balanced, perfect for late-night bar crawls, in the afternoon on the porch, or at your parents' yacht party. Or, add a little orange juice, and it becomes a Madras cocktail (plaid, anyone?).

The Cape Codder clocks in at roughly 11% ABV, pretty mild but still punchy enough to get the job done. (Vodka crans have often been described as utilitarian, and this East Coast cousin is no precious exception.) Best of all, despite its bougie name, it counts for your local dive's "$1 off well drinks" happy hour special. Still, unless you're drinking in Massachusetts, if you order a Cape Codder instead of a vodka cran, don't be surprised when the bartender looks at you like you're a tool.