If you’re like many Americans you’ve got an old sticky bottle, with its tattered label falling off, tucked away in the back of your cupboard that you used once to cook with. Unfortunately for the category of Sherry that is how many people view it, nothing more than a sweet wine that is primarily used for cooking. As a category, we think it’s a fantastic ingredient that can elevate your cocktail game. Sherry has such a wide range of styles it’s no wonder it is misunderstood in America. We hope to clear up some confusion and debunk any nasty rumors you may have heard about the wonderful category.
Let’s start with what it is. Sherry is a fortified wine, meaning small amounts of neutral grape spirit are added to the wine to increase the alcohol content and help stabilize the wine from spoilage. Sherry also has a protected designation of origin legally it must be made in Spain, specifically the Sherry Triangle in the province of Cadiz, between Jerez de la Frontera, Sanlucar de Barrameda and El Puerto de Santa Maria.
The Sherry Triangle provides unique terroir to the multiple styles of sherry that are produced. There are four styles of dry sherry, fino, manzanilla, amontillado, palo cortado, and oloroso. In addition to the dry styles of sherry the region produces two naturally sweet sherry, pedro ximenez “PX” and muscatel. Finally, there are the blended sherry which must be labeled with designations such as “cream” or “medium” among others.
In addition to terroir, sherry production utilizes barrel aging to add to its character. The three most commonly used aging methods are: biological aging, oxidative aging, and mixed aging. In biological aging, the wine is fortified to around 15% ABV then utilizes flor, an indigenous yeast that creates a veil over the wine protecting it from oxidation. With oxidative aging, the wine is fortified above 17% and does not utilize flor therefore the wine has constant contact with the air in the cask. Finally, mixed aging is a combination of both previous methods; the wine is aged under the veil of flor then additional neutral grape spirit is added, hence killing the flor (and any other microbes), allowing the oxidative aging to continue.
Now that we’ve scratched the surface of what Sherry is, let’s talk about why you need it. First and foremost, it’s delicious! Sherry can act as your life raft when you can’t decide if you want to drink wine or a cocktail. It has beautiful flavors by itself, but when used in cocktails it can provide fabulous umami notes or naturally sweet tones, dryness, complexity to the mouth feel of your drink all depending on which sherry you decide to use. If you’ve never had a sherry cobbler today is the day! Follow this recipe for the cocktail that owned the 19th century.
4 oz Oloroso or Amontillado sherry
.25 oz 1to1 simple syrup
3 slices of orange
Add all ingredients, shake with ice, pour over fresh ice and garnish with orange slices seasonal berries, finally add straw (don’t forget the straw)
Another cocktail we’re crazy about is our very own Waikoloa Sour created for the opening menu at Kuleana Rum Shack
1oz Kuleana Huihui
.5 oz lilikoi
.5 oz orgeat
.5 oz Plantation rum
.25 oz fresh lemon juice
2 dash Angostura bitters
.5 oz Lustau east india sherry float
Shake all ingredients except sherry, strain over pebble ice, top with sherry