Cocktail Obituary: Sex on the Beach Straight Up Cocktails and Spirits

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

There’s been a lot of creative energy poured into mixology lately, and it seems like a fresh new cocktail is welcomed into the world just about every week. But today, this Friday the 13th, we are here to report a cocktail death. On July 25th in New Orleans, Sex on the Beach was laid to rest.

A vodka-based recipe with a mini Kama Sutra‘s worth of variations (some versions call for peach schnapps, cranberry juice, and orange juice; others melon liqueur, Chambord, and pineapple juice), this fruity drink with the saucy name was born sometime in the 1980s and lived a full – if short – life, famously making a cameo turn in the “Last Barman Poet” scene in the 1988 Tom Cruise film, Cocktail.

Now Sex on the Beach is no more.

Is this a joke?

Well, yes. But like many jokes, there’s an element of seriousness behind it.

A ceremony that now takes place annually at the Tales of the Cocktail drinks festival, the “Cocktail Funeral” is a grand affair complete with mourners, casket, and jazz-style processional. The tradition began in 2008 with a farewell to the Appletini and was followed by the burial of the saltily named, Jägermeister-laced cocktail, the Red Headed Slut in 2009. The idea behind all this deadpan pageantry is to lay to rest (symbolically, anyway) a drink that deserves to be “retired.”

Styles change. So far the “departed” have all been creations of the 80s and 90s – a cocktail era that tended to be short on fresh ingredients and culinary craftsmanship, but high on “flair” bartending techniques, bottled mixes, and racy names.

This year Sex on the Beach was voted off the island, so to speak, through a poll on Tales of the Cocktail’s website. The “funeral” took place during a torrential rainstorm, which put a bit of a cramp on the festivities, but if you’d like to get an idea of what the procession through New Orleans’ French Quarter more typically looks like, check out this footage from 2009:

Readers, do you think the Sex on the Beach cocktail was heartlessly dispatched before its time – or not soon enough? Do you think there’s room in the world for every kind of cocktail – or is there one you’d especially like to see ushered to its final resting place?

Nora Maynard is a longtime home mixologist and an occasional instructor at NYC’s Astor Center. She is a contributor to The Business of Food: Encyclopedia of the Food and Drink Industries and is the recipient of the American Egg Board Fellowship in culinary writing at the Writers’ Colony at Dairy Hollow. She previously covered food and drink in film at The Kitchn in her weekly column, The Celluloid Pantry.

(Image: Nora Maynard, made with Gravestone Generator. Video: Jonas Halpren for Drink of the Week, used with permission.)