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Using Sherry Wine in Cocktail Recipes

Using Sherry Wine in Cocktail Recipes

Sherry is one of the most versatile cocktail ingredients. The fortified wine is central to many 19th-century classics and has a history of bringing saltiness, sweetness and savory layers to cocktails. But while sherry is a much-loved staple of the back bar, its myriad uses for home bartenders are often more obscure.

“I think the majority of non-industrial people are a little bit afraid of sherry because all they know about it is… [that it’s] sweet and compact,” said New York bartender Natasha Bermudez recently, regarding her use of the ingredient in modern contexts. In fact, while sherry can richer, with notes of dried fruit or caramel, it can also be bone dry and bring minerality to the table. There is a wide variety of sherries available, and the style continues to evolve.


Chantal Tseng, bartender and ambassador for US Sherry Week, emphasizes that the ingredient is easy to use in any cocktail. For starters, she suggests looking at how sherry fits into your favorite classic recipe. “Lighter organically aged sherries [such as manzanilla or fino] work alongside dry vermouths and lighter spirits such as gin, vodka or blanco tequila, accentuating savory and spicy elements accordingly,” she explains. At the other end of the spectrum, “amontillados and olorosos work well with the sweeter or rouge vermouths and more aged spirits.” And Pedro Ximénez sherry, rather than simple syrup, is “a beautiful thing” to enhance a daiquiri, according to Tseng.


To further demystify the fortified wine, here’s a guide to the most common sherry styles and how to use them in cocktails.

Fino sherry is non-oxidized, delicate and dry, making it ideal for adding a pinch of salt to frugal drinks, such as martinis. The tuxedotrades fino for dry vermouth, for example, while the equal parts Jungle cocktail adds it to sweet vermouth and gin for a slightly savory twist on the Martinez. But beyond elegant coupé glasses, fino also finds its way into more crushable formats: in the rebujito, an Andalusian highball, is combined with lime-lime soda. In another easy-drinking cocktail, the Coco And Ramacombines fino’s minerality with the salty taste of coconut water, enhanced with herbaceous tarragon-infused vermouth.

rebujito

A fresh, effortless take, the official summer drink of the Spanish sherry region.

coco and rama cocktail recipe

Coco And Rama

An easy-drinking combination of fino sherry, tarragon-infused blanc vermouth and coconut water.

Manzanilla is equally dry and differs from fino only in its place of origin; manzanilla comes from a cooler region, which gives it more brightness. Given the high acidity and salt content of the sherry, its presence in cocktails has been compared to “bringing a pinch of salt on the table,” says Andrew Meltzer, a San Francisco bartender and fan of the style. Whether it’s brightening up sherry classics, such as turn the Bamboo into a highballor give a cocktail the 50/50 treatment, like in Bermudez’s lower-proof take on the Margarita, a dose of manzanilla is an easy shortcut to complexity. It can also stand in place of liqueurs, as in our Apple Garibaldiwhere it enhances the tartness of green apple juice.

Bamboo highball cocktail recipe

Bamboo Highball

The stirred classic turns into a tall cooler with a splash of tonic water.

50/50 Margarita

A split base of mezcal and manzanilla sherry offers a lower ABV version of the classic.

Apple Garibaldi Recipe

Apple Garibaldi

Granny Smith apples shine alongside sherry, vermouth and gin.

Amontillado sherry is slightly deeper than fino and manzanilla, yet lighter than oloroso, with a spicier character. For Chip Tyndale’s take on the Bamboo, which divides the vermouth quotient between blanc and dry expressions, he did not find it necessary to split the sherry, as amontillado finds the right balance between nuttyness and sweetness that works well against the fruit qualities of the vermouth. Amontillado is also the basis for Alex Anderson’s take on the Sherry Cobbler. Combined with rich Demerara syrup and citrus, the sherry lends roundness and weight to the recipe, making it our favorite version of several cobblers we recently blind tasted. Amontillado also goes well with modern drinks, such as the Romance in Gracelandwhere the slightly nutty character plays on the taste of peanut butter washed Cognac.

Nutty oloroso sherry is fuller and can replace brown spirits in less potent versions of classics. Because of its dessert-like quality, oloroso works particularly well in creamy cocktails, such as the Sherry Flipor in nightcaps like the Sketches of Spain, a Spanish-inspired cocktail that offers a less strong last drink of the night. In brighter drinks, on the other hand, like Matt Piacentini’s sherry tinted version of the Daiquirioloroso adds depth to the recipe, which also includes a more concentrated 2:1 Demerara syrup.

Death Flip Modern Classic Cocktail Recipe

Sherry Flip

One of the original sherry drinks, described as a “very tasty drink” that “gives strength to sensitive people”.

Recipe for Sherry Nightcap

Sketches of Spain

A low-alcohol nightcap with sherry, sweet vermouth and a dash of cognac.

Pedro Ximenez is made from dried grapes using fractional blending, or the solera process, so each bottle represents a blended vintage. PX sherry, as it’s known for short, is sticky-sweet and instead of a base, works well in place of a sweetener. In the Pedro Suckerpunchfor example, it stands for sugar syrup and is balanced with clear lemon juice and bitter espresso liqueur. With its raisin flavour, PX sherry also feels right at home alongside the fruity flavors of a Pimm’s Cup, where its nutty character helps to create Maison Premiere’s take on the classic to a wintery palate. The fortified wine also illuminates the spirit-forward construction of the Congratulations Los 4making sure that the rock-hard combination of bourbon, rum and peated Scotch remains “squeezable and delicious”.

Pedro Suckerpunch

Pedro Ximenéz sherry brings the sweet kick of an old-fashioned to this shaken blend.

Congratulations Los 4

A strong, yet “squeezable” combination of bourbon, rum, sherry and Scotch whisky.

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