Sex on the Beach, a fruity boozy vodka-based cocktail made with peach, oranges and cranberry, has squarely been synonymous with summer holidays in the beaches. Yet, this sweet and tart drink was born, not as an accident or an experimental streak, but from a marketing tactic.
So the story goes, in 1987, the spirits company National Distribution found itself eager to enhance the sales of its recently introduced peach schnapps. Faced with surplus cases of this fruity spirit, the distributor adopted a strategic approach: they set their sights on Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Seizing the opportune moment during the city's bustling spring break season, National Distribution initiated a contest. The challenge was clear - offer a cash reward of $1,000 to the bar that could boast the highest sales of peach schnapps, with an additional $100 prize earmarked for the bartender who demonstrated the most sales prowess.
Meeting the challenge head-on, Ted Pizio of Confetti bar rose to the occasion by concocting a new cocktail. Blending peach schnapps, vodka, orange juice, and grenadine, Pizio created a concoction that instantly captivated the taste buds of patrons.
Ted Pizio's decision to name the cocktail "Sex on the Beach" was guided by a clever assumption. Recognising that spring breakers, a significant clientele in Florida's bustling bar scene, were drawn to the state for what he believed were the two primary reasons: "sex" and "the beach." Pizio gave the cocktail a catchy and suggestive name, capturing the lively and carefree vibe of spring break and adding to the drink's appeal among the target audience. The moniker added an extra layer of appeal, aligning perfectly with the sun-soaked, celebratory ambiance of the coastal setting.
While it remains unclear whether Ted Pizio secured victory in the competition, the popularity of his concoction is said to have reverberated beyond Fort Lauderdale, reaching the colleges and hometowns of the numerous students who relished it. Although Pizio's initial recipe featured grenadine, the contemporary rendition of the cocktail often opts for the more widely accessible cranberry juice. This substitution maintains a similar tart-sweet flavour profile and red hue, guaranteeing the enduring appeal of the Sex on the Beach cocktail.
History, especially when intertwined with alcohol, often unfolds with multiple perspectives. Contrary to the narrative of Ted Pizio's influential creation during a spring break promotion, an alternate account reveals The Sex on the Beach cocktail apparently made its debut years earlier, with a recipe appearing in the 1982 edition of the American Bartenders School Guide to Drinks. This revelation predates Pizio's peach-schnapps-infused sensation by a significant five years.
According to some historians, the origins of the cocktail can be traced to a straightforward fusion of a Fuzzy Navel (combining orange juice and peach schnapps) and a Cape Codder (blending vodka and cranberry juice). This suggests that the concoction may have quietly evolved in the mixology landscape before Ted Pizio's spring break contest.
Contemporary mixologists have created several different versions of this cocktail, most notably, Sex in the Driveway, in which orange juice and cranberry juice are swapped out for blue curaçao and Sprite; and Woo Woo, which does away with the orange juice completely.
Add the vodka, peach schnapps, orange juice and cranberry juice to a shaker with ice and shake.
Strain into a hurricane glass over ice.
Garnish with orange slices.