The History Of The Cape Codder (Vodka Cranberry)
The earliest record of the Cape Cod (Cape Codder) comes from 1945 in volume 6 of the Cranberry Canners Inc. Newsletter. The article describes a New York restaurant whose owner is also a cranberry grower and the unique ways he incorporates cranberries into his menu.
“In the continental atmosphere of Pierre’s on 52 East 53rd Street, New York, the ultra-American cranberry juice is always on the menu… The restaurateur, Pierre Ferro, is also a cranberry grower and a member of the NCA… With cranberry juice, he adds vodka, a dash of fresh lime and he comes up with a Red Devil cocktail”
The Red Devil name doesn’t stick, and the cocktail only seems to catch on in the late 1950s. I can’t find any cocktail books from the 1940s through 1960s, even ones from New York, that mention it. Any mention of it in the 1950s comes from magazine articles, and it often has different names. A Samovar Vodka ad in Life Magazine calls it a Jubilee Punch. A musical from 1958 called “Say, Darling” calls it vodka and cranberry, and an article in Time Magainze from 1961 mentions how Trader Vic’s calls it a Rangoon Ruby. The June 1961 issue of the Philadelphia Inquirer called it a Jersey Wedding. The list goes on and on. The name Cape Codder, shortened to Cape Cod, started to appear in the 1960s when Ocean Spray began promoting the drink and pushing the juice market hard.
Before Thanksgiving 1959, the Department of Health announced that a few samples of Ocean Spray Cranberries from growers in Washington and Oregon had residual cancer-causing weed killer aminotriazole still on them. All Ocean Spray Cranberries products were pulled from the shelves, and the loss of an entire year’s harvest almost destroyed the company. Realizing the need to expand beyond the holidays Ocean Spray looked for any way to sell its product in new markets. They began heavily promoting Cranberry juice as a healthy alternative to soda for children and adults, dried candies cranberries as a snack, and cranberry juice as an alcoholic mixer for adults. The company took the already-known vodka and cranberry cocktail and began advertising it as a Cape Codder, further tying the name to the Ocean Spray brand. The advertising worked, and by the end of the 1960s, the cocktail was generally called a Cape Codder. Even Trader Vic had renamed his Rangoon Ruby the Cape Codder for the 1972 edition of his Bartenders Guide. The multiple names for this drink persist today, as most refer to this cocktail as simply a Vodka Cran
The Rise Of Vodka Cocktails in the 1940s.
Vodka cocktails were almost nonexistent and not popular till the 1940s. Except for the Bloody Mary, I can’t think of a single cocktail that contained vodka before the 1940s. What happened in the 1940s to change that? The Moscow Mule was invented in 1941, and its overnight success suddenly made vodka a popular spirit. Most classic vodka cocktails can be traced back to this period. Since Vodka had no history of being used as an ingredient, bartenders found it easy to replace gin with vodka and give the drink a fun new name. The screwdriver was just an orange blossom with vodka. The vodka Martini was just a martini with vodka, and a drink called the Russian Bear (most likely the origin of the White Russian) was just an Alexander with vodka instead of gin, and the list goes on.