Fun fact: Did you know sherry was the first wine ever to arrive in America? It was rolled ashore in dark casks straight off the Mayflower. The Spanish fortified wine grew in popularity starting in the 1800s and going through the dawn of the 20th century, and the Sherry Cobbler would become one of our nation's first cocktail crazes. Post Prohibition until the 1960s, scarce imports and a change in consumer tastes relegated sherry to rather dusty neglect on the backbar.
Today, sherry is seeing a massive resurgence and landing in a bevy of creative cocktails, thanks to both its incredible range of flavor profiles and its ability to suit any season. In fall and winter, you'll find a number of wonderfully dark, strong Olorosos and Edgar Allen Poe’s favorites: nutty, amber Amontillados. For year-round refreshment, go for the Manzanillas (marked by the sea, with a fruit and brine quality) and Fino labels (pungent, bracing and bright). Here, a shortlist of bars that are creating the most inventive, must-drink sherry cocktails right now.
Sweetwater Social, New York City
In this basement bar, known as much for its sports-fan scene as for its serious craft cocktails, ask for the Broken Language. Made with Lustau Oloroso Sherry, Compass Box Orangerie Scotch, Averna Amaro, lemon juice, maple syrup and Fee's aromatic bitters, it's served on the rocks with a dehydrated orange wheel. Does the drink's name ring a bell? The cocktail is named after a Smoothe Da Hustler hip-hop track from the mid 90's.
Gracias Madre, Los Angeles
This L.A. bar's Fungus Among Us cocktail starts with a base of Amontillado sherry infused with...shiitake mushrooms. That gets combined with house-mulled Spanish vermouth, mezcal espadin, house-made truffle bitters, orange oil and sparkling wine—plus a slice of raw mushroom for garnish. This spring, expect the debut of The Barcelona Spritz cocktail, made with Oloroso sherry infused with toasted blood orange pith, combined with heirloom olive brine and topped with Cava.
Vesta Dipping Grill, Denver
This Denver spot's riff on the Sherry Cobbler is made with Osborne Amontillado sherry, Leopold Bros. New England Cranberry Liqueur and agave syrup, all topped with soda water and an orange slice. The drink is then hard-shaken and garnished with mint sprigs and cranberries. An icy refresher, it has deep walnut nuances and a bright acidity, thanks to the sherry mingling with those tart berries. Photo by photo Kari Cummings Photography
Latitude 29, New Orleans
“I named this drink the U.S.S. Wondrich after the first guest who ever asked us for a sherry drink. That was cocktail scholar David Wondrich, PhD.,” says Latitude 29’s owner, Jeff Berry. The resulting drink is delightfully low-proof and makes a fine choice among some of the bar’s stronger, Tiki-style tipples. Served in a pretty coupe glass, it combines Amontillado sherry, pineapple juice, Italian vermouth, a chocolate-orange liqueur and a dash of Angostura bitters, all shaken over ice and strained. Photo by Annene Kaye
Sable Kitchen & Bar, Chicago
The first thing you’ll notice about the Picnic Blanket is the smell of fresh basil. As you take your first sip, you'll sense the bright and bracing quality of Manzanilla sherry. Head bartender John Stanton elegantly balances that with a clean and beautiful combination of ¾-ounce Ransom gin, a splash of Dolin dry vermouth and a sweet-and-herbaceous ounce of a home-made peach-basil shrub.
The Day Tripper was created by bartender Megan Deschaine, who describes it as nutty and fruity while simultaneously refreshing and dry. That's due to the combo of Oloroso, Hayman’s Old Tom Gin, apricot liqueur, lemon juice, honey syrup and a dash of aromatic bitters. Deschaine admits she's wowed not just by the sophisticated, versatile wine itself, but especially by in-the-know customers who "ask specifically for" sherry.
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