“Oh Sherry, our love holds on, holds on.” Immortal words by Steve Perry of the band Journey. But more recently, also the cry of many a mixologist who has caught onto the trend of using the fortified wine, sherry, in their cocktails. Sherry is traditionally served pre-or post-meal, depending on the unique flavor, but it has now taken the cocktail world by storm and is being featured on some of the top menus in the country.
There are a dramatic amount of styles of sherries, ranging from incredibly light and dry to dark, heavy and sweet. The styles can get a bit confusing for an amateur sherry-ist, so let’s keep it simple: dry, medium and sweet.
Manzanilla and Fino: These are the lightest versions of sherry. They can be very dry, saline and yeasty. They are more refreshing and less sugar-forward.
Amontillado, Palo Cortado and Oloroso: Typically on the drier side, but darker and richer than the dry sherries. These styles carry taste notes of nuts and dry fruit. They are the perfect complementary sherries when mixing cocktails. Amontillado and Oloroso seem to be the favorite of many bartenders.
Cream, Moscatel and Pedro Ximénez: These varieties are the sweetest and darkest. They lean toward the dessert side with notes of heavy fig and raisin. Cream sherries are not creamy, but in fact a blend of a sweet sherry normally mixed with a medium-bodied sherry.
Now that you are slightly educated in your sherries, find the flavor that best fits the cocktail that you are looking to make and get to work. One of the best things about sherry, aside from its rich tradition, incredible versatility and amazing taste, is that it is truly affordable on any budget. You can find a decent bottle for under $20. If you have $50 in your wallet, you can buy a variety from all three sherry categories to encourage experimentation behind your bar. Fall is quickly approaching, and it's time to familiarize yourself with the Spanish spirit that is taking over the world of cocktailia.