*Recent ruminations from LUPEC Boston, originally published in the Weekly Dig.
by Pink Lady
A favored tipple of grandmas and Brits, sherry hasn’t been popular among young’uns like us in a while. We happen to love the stuff. At the Manhattan Cocktail Classic in New York last week, we attended a seminar on sherry drinks that convinced us sherry will be the next hip thing. Here’s a primer, so you know what to expect when you see it pop up on cocktail lists everywhere.
Most people think of sherry as a sweet wine, but it’s actually made in a variety of styles ranging from super dry pale finos, to the rich, lush wines made from Pedro Ximinez, one of the sweetest wines you’ll ever taste.
Sherry is a fortified wine made in Jerez (southern Spain). Palomino fino is the base grape for most sherries, and it yields a regular wine that is light, pleasant to drink and straightforward, if a bit uninteresting. The sherry-making process changes this wine completely, developing complex flavors that make it an interesting ingredient in any cocktail.
Sherry wines are aged in barrels called “butts” (hehe), under a thick layer of yeast called “flor,” which prevents oxidation of the dry fino wines. After aging for six months, the winemaker checks the wines and determines, based on the flor’s thickness, if the wine will be a fino, or a nuttier, oxidized style, like amontillado or oloroso. Each style is then placed in its own solera, a special system of fractional blending, in which old wine is constantly refreshed with new wine. The barrels are stacked on top of one another in rows called “criaderas,” with the oldest butts on top. In some sherry houses, these criaderas house wine for years. Each time the sherry is bottled, an equal amount of vino is drawn off from each of the criaderas in the solera. That wine is then replaced with wine from the next oldest criadera, and winemakers are careful to blend horizontally and vertically across the rows in the solera. It’s a crazy complicated system, brimming with tradition and, in our opinion, a little bit of magic.
Sherry may be perceived as grandmacore, but back in the Golden Age of cocktails, the sherry cobbler was one of the most popular drinks around. It’s a light, refreshing sip, perfect for spring, and one we highly recommend resurrecting on the patio.
THE SHERRY COBBLER
Adapted from IMBIBE by David Wondrich, based on Jerry Thomas’ recipe
4 oz sherry of your choice
0.5 oz simple syrup
2-3 slices of orange
Shake ingredients with cracked ice, pour unstrained into a tall glass, with fresh fruits in season as garnish.
Dr. Wondrich suggests that Jerry Thomas would have been mixing this with fino sherry, but play around and see which you like best. For fuller, sweeter sherries like Pedro Ximinez or oloroso, scale back the sugar.