A near limitless number of books, articles, podcasts, and posts have decried for a decade now that sherry, the immense catalog of wines from southern Spain around the Jerez region, are not just for your grandmother’s nightcap, pirate legend, or stodgy dessert pairing any longer.
These are noble, protected, delineated wines the dispatches remind us, but then the stories diverge into two distinct paths. One, that these wines should be enjoyed, well, as wines, the way they have been for hundreds of years, or two, because of their specific attributes derived from unique wine making practices, these wines are best suited to surviving and thriving in the cocktail shaker and thus should be utilized in as many ways as possible. One might take the first case and aspire to leave these fine wines well enough alone. But when has a bartender ever done that? Personally, I’ve always felt we don’t have to choose.
The major styles of this category from a relatively small area, are as different from one another — maybe even more so — as whiskeys of America, Scotland, Ireland and Japan. From the light, crisp fino and manzanilla to the savory and sinewy amontillado and palo cortado, the oxidized oloroso to the well textured and slightly sweet cream style, and even the very sweet Pedro Ximénez and moscatel, a landscape of unparalleled variety emerges for the budding drink maker to work with.
We find each type of sherry an ingredient so complex that it can accomplish many purposes in a cocktail. In the Bamboo and Adonis, sherry stands in for gin and then rye. In the Tuxedo, and endless modern variations on the classic Negroni, it’s as the vermouth we often see sherry being used. In the oldest sherry cocktail, the Cobbler, we see each of the styles standing tall as the original base with a host of seasonal ingredients for endless expression.
For the unsure who want to make a quick scientific work of finding out where they stand on sherry’s highest use, I propose the following experiment. Try a refreshing sherry Collins made with your favorite fino or manzanilla sherry to see that this cocktail can be as transformative while even more complex than the classic Tom Collins with gin.
What you’ll need
2 ½ oz. fino or manzanilla sherry
½ oz. lemon juice
½ oz. simple syrup
Shake over ice and strain over fresh ice in a collins glass
Top with soda water
Garnish with a slice of lemon
Join our next virtual cocktail class
Join us Thursday, April 15 at 7 p.m. with host Jackson Cannon and special guest Katie Hubbard, bar manager of Taberna de Haro and Straight Law Bar. This week they’ll be making cocktails with sherry, the often misunderstood and always evocative wine of southern Spain, catching up about the Boston restaurant and bar scene, and sharing tips the pros use to make great drinks at home. They’ll be mixing a Sherry Collins and The Bamboo cocktail. Everything you’ll need is listed here with a link to purchase your Boston.com Cocktail Club Sherry kit through Gordon’s Fine Wine and Spirits.
Jackson Cannon is a veteran craft cocktail leader and host of Boston.com Cocktail Club.