Cocktail Chemistry: What's the Right Way to Make a Sex on the Beach?

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In the cocktail world, what was once old is new and trendy again. Suspenders, mustaches, hand-carved ice balls—the flash and dazzle of 19th century bartending might be here to stay. But more recently, some bartenders have been searching through the archives of the Disco Era for cocktails to find new inspiration.

One such drink is the Sex on the Beach. Like the Cosmopolitan and the White Russian, these drinks flourished during the period between the 1960s and early 2000s, when sour mix and juice from a soda gun were bar staples (and bars used provocative names like the "Buttery Nipple" or "Surfer on Acid" instead of quality ingredients to sell drinks).

But the Sex on the Beach still has a surprising following. A mistranslation of the phrase is captured for posterity by current Top 40 song “Cake By The Ocean.” There's even a modern cocktail company named after the cocktail. Their website claims “the earliest known invention of the cocktail and name dates back to 1987 in Florida, USA.” According to them, peach schnapps had just become available, and a distributor offered a bonus to the bar and bartender who sold the most.

As their story goes:

"A young bartender named Ted, working at Confetti’s Bar, mixed up a peach schnapps, vodka, orange juice and grenadine cocktail. When Ted began to sell the drink, he was asked what it was called. On the spot, Ted thought what the main reason was that people came to Florida for their Spring break—it was The Beach and Sex.”

It's a fun story, but it's probably untrue. In 1982, a recipe for the Sex on the Beach (that included peach schnapps) graced the pages of a book published by the American Bartenders School.

It’s likely that a bartender (or bartenders) created the peachy recipe by combining a Fuzzy Navel (orange juice and peach schnapps) with a Cape Codder (vodka and cranberry juice with a lime). As for how the name and the drink came together, there's nothing more to go on than speculation.

Hazy origins or not, this tropical, sweet cocktail is more than just fun to order—it's tasty to drink, too.


Sex On The Beach
1 1/2 ounce vodka
3/4 ounce peach schnapps
1 1/2 ounce cranberry juice
1 1/2 ounce orange juice

Combine all ingredients in a highball glass filled with ice. Garnish with a slice of orange.