As they say in fashion: if you wait long enough, it’ll eventually come back in style.
Sherry, long referred to as granny’s drink, has been one of the world’s most overlooked wines—until now. The fortified wine, made with white grapes and brandy, is finally shaking off its stodgy image. Due in part to the craft cocktail movement and savvy wine drinkers, sherry is so very vogue, just as it was over two centuries ago.
Peter Liem, co-author of Sherry, Manzanilla & Montilla: A Guide to Traditional Wines of Andalusia, credits the renewed interest to the adventurous palates of modern day wine drinkers. “Sherry’s recent resurgence can be attributed to today’s wine-drinking audience, particularly in the United States,” he observes, “that are more sophisticated now than ever before. Rather than simply seeking out blue-chip wine regions such as Bordeaux and Burgundy, wine drinkers are enthusiastically exploring previously unheard of areas, and Jerez is one of them.”
To fully appreciate it, as Shakespeare did in his day, it’s beneficial to learn of its rich history and the elaborate journey it takes to your glass. Dating back 3,000 years when the Phoenicians planted grape vines in southern Spain, sherry is one of the oldest wines in the world. As Cognac or tequila have strict domain designations, sherry too must be produced in the Andalusian region of southwestern Spain.
Established as one of Spain’s first protected appellations in 1933, the region is referred to as the “Sherry Triangle” encompassing the towns of Jerez, Sanlúcar de Barrameda, and Puerto de Santa María. In this region, the soil—rich in chalky limestone—is ideal for growing sherry grapes under scorching summer temperatures. The three grape varietals from which sherry can be made are Palomino, Pedro Ximénez (PX for short), and Moscatel. Depending on what types of grapes are utilized, sherry is produced in three basic styles: dry, sweet, and blended.
Types of Sherry
Whether it’s your first or fiftieth time experiencing the Spanish aromatic wine, there’s always something more to explore with the myriad of styles and flavors. Based on the method of aging and type of grape utilized, the six major sherry categories are Fino, Manzanilla, Amontillado, Oloroso, Pedro Ximénez (also known as PX), and Cream. Contrary to a popular misconception of sherry as a dessert wine, the only two types of dessert sherry are Pedro Ximénez and Cream.
The Rebujito, a mix of Sprite with fino or manzanilla, is the only sherry cocktail you’ll find in Spain. In contrast, there has been a long history with sherry cocktails in the States, dating back to the late 1800s. Classic sherry drinks from that time period include the Bamboo (fino with dry vermouth and bitters), the Tuxedo (gin, fino sherry, orange bitters), and the Sherry Cobbler (sherry, sugar, muddled fruit.) It’s no surprise that sherry is being rediscovered by modern day bartenders for its versatility as a mixer.
“It’s a great substitute for vermouth because it’s a bit more dry. It also works really well with many scotches and brandy that are aged in sherry barrels anyway, making it a great match to mix with,” says Dave Kupchinsky, co-owner at Fiscal Agent in Studio City.
Head bartender Will Peet at Donostia, a Basque tapas bar in New York City with the largest by-the-glass sherry collection (over 45) in the U.S., is also a fan of a sherry’s diverse uses. “Personally I love the pairing of brandy and sherry, a ‘if it grows together, it goes together’ sort of thing. One of my favorite examples is a cocktail called the Sancho Panza, which blends rich cream sherry with dry Brandy de Jerez, high proof Apple brandy, and walnut liqueur,” says Peet.
Obviously, granny was much more hip that we gave her credit for. Whether sipping it straight from a traditional copita glass or drinking it in a cocktail, sherry is one of the most glorious fortified wines to explore. ¡Salud!
Courtesy of Jeffrey Morgenthaler, Clyde Common, Portland, Oregon
- 1 oz. Tanqueray No. TEN
- 1 oz. Amontillado Sherry
- 1/2 oz. Lime Juice
- 1 tsp. Demerara Syrup
- Ginger Beer, to top
- Lime Wheel or Peel, for garnish
Preparation: Place all ingredients in a mixing tin and shake until chilled. Top with 2 ounces ginger beer and strain into collins glass. Rocks and lime to garnish.
Courtesy of Will Peet, Donostia, New York City
- 3/4 oz. Bodegas César Florido Moscatel Especial – Moscatel Sherry
- 1 1/2 oz. González Byass Viña AB – Amontillado Sherry
- 2 oz. Tio Pepe Fino González Byass - Fino Sherry
- 3 dashes Angostura Bitters
- 1/4 oz. Grenadine
- 1/4 oz. Ginger Syrup
- 1/2 oz. Vanilla Syrup
- 1/2 oz. Grapefruit Juice
- 3/4 oz. Lime Juice
- Peychaud’s Bitters
- Sprig of Mint
Preparation: Whip shake with crushed ice, pour over crushed ice in footed beer glass. Top with Peychaud’s bitters and big mint sprig.
Revae Schneider, Siena Tavern, Chicago, Illinois
- 1 1/2 oz. Mount Gay Black Barrel
- 1 oz. Templeton Rye Whiskey
- 1/2 oz. Lustau East India Solera Sherry
- 1/4 oz. Le Sirop Lavender Honey
- 1 dash Scrappy’s Lavender Bitters
- Orange Swath, for garnish
Preparation: Add Mount Gay Rum, Templeton Rye Whiskey, Le Sirop Lavender Honey, sherry, and Scrappy’s Lavender bitters into empty pint glass. Add ice and stir for 30 seconds. Pour into the glass either up or over ice. Garnish with orange
The Rose and the Woodbine Twine
Courtesy of Dave Kupchinsky, Co-Owner, Fiscal Agent, Studio City
- 1 oz. Auchentoshan 3Wood Scotch
- 1 oz. Lepanto PX Solera Brandy de Jerez
- 3/4 oz. Olorosso Sherry
- 1/4 oz. Benedictine
- Lemon Peel, for garnish
Preparation: Stir, strain, and serve up with a lemon peel.