How to Make a Sporting Life Cocktail

October 30, 2014

When he's not busy running the cocktail program at New York City's Marta, Erik Lombardo is giving us the rundown on all things spirits -- and showing us the best ways to drink them.

Today: The classic Country Life cocktail gets a sporting makeover.

sherry cocktail

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The mixing of drinks has been, and might very well forever be, highly susceptible to the ebb and flow of trends. Whether it be the ubiquity of Amari, or smoky dashes of mezcal and Islay scotch, it seems like when something new catches on in the cocktail world it spreads like wildfire. What's in vogue now? The splitting of base spirits.  

Cocktails mixing whiskies, rums, and tequilas of different types -- as well as recipes mixing unlikely bedfellows -- have been popping up with increasing regularity over the last few years. And in Crosby Gaige’s Cocktail Guide, there's a cocktail that demonstrates this with alacrity: The Country Life, which is a mix of port, rum, and bourbon. With a little substitution, we get something a little drier and a little more modern. Enter the Sporting Life.

sherry cocktail

The Sporting Life takes its name from the free-wheeling never-do-well lifestyle favored by 19th-century rakes, and the cocktail follows suit with an updated take on some very 19th-century flavors. The Cognac contributes a sophisticated roundness, adding weight to the cocktail without adding sweetness. (I use Pierre Ferrand 1840 -- a bottling that cocktail historian David Wondrich had a hand in designing -- to ensure that it accurately reflects period cognacs of time.) The Jamaican rum should be as rich and as funky as you can get it; this pot-stilled Smith & Cross is perfect. In place of the port called for in the original recipe, I like sherry. Lustau Capataz Andres Cream Sherry works well here -- just the right balance between sweet and bitter almonds, dried fruit, and toffee.

Angostura bitters finish the cocktail, bringing all of the subtle spiciness of the spirits to life. With all of those rich, dark spice notes, the only possible garnish is a beautiful, wide orange peel liberally rubbed around the rim of the glass. 

Sporting Life

Serves 1

3/4 ounce cream sherry
3/4 ounce Jamaican rum
1 1/2 ounces Cognac
Angostura bitters
Orange twist

See the full recipe (and save it and print it) here.

Photos by James Ransom

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Erik Lombardo

Written by: Erik Lombardo