The last couple of years have (no pun intended) shaken-up the cocktail scene to a dizzying extent. With the pandemic inflicting massive blows to the on-trade in terms of footfall, customers’ spending habits, supply-chain issues, and staff retention, it’s no wonder that the type of drinks being offered, and sought after, are changing.
A big player in this drinks shake-up is a fortified-wine that has often found itself wilting away in the dust-covered drinks cabinets of our grandparents: sherry.
For the unfamiliar - sherry is a fortified wine from the southern region of Jerez, in Spain, produced in styles ranging from syrupy-sweet (Pedro Ximenez) to bone-dry and heavily oxidative (Oloroso). The past couple of years have seen a significant uptick in sherry’s popularity:
UK retailers have seen sales increases in excess of 20% following the onset of the pandemic, while numerous drinks publications have placed the fortified wine highly on their drinks trends lists.
Its resurgence can perhaps be linked to increases in lower-ABV offerings and informed consumption, as swapping spirits for sherry-based cocktails allows for both a moderated, and sophisticated, approach to drinking.
The moderated approach is in fact a well-established style of consumption, nodding back to the late nineteenth century, where drinks like the Adonis or Bamboo essentially traded in the hard whisky base of a Manhattan for brighter and more delicate sherry, creating a far more session-able tipple.
Sherry also works well to satisfy informed consumers and cocktail connoisseurs, with just a touch of it bringing renewed depth and complexity to drinks that have been around for a long time.
Take a glance at the menu of a Top 500 Bar and you’ll be hard-pressed to find one that doesn’t include sherry - a remarkable feat, considering the sheer range of spirits on offer at high-end venues.
Happiness Forgets, in Hoxton, includes sherry in over a third of its menu drinks: its sublime, Adonis-riffed Jerezana is a dangerously drinkable combination of Manzanilla and Amontillado sherries with both sweet and dry vermouth, vanilla and orange bitters – it’s enough of a winning combination that they also offer it over ice as a Jerezana and Tonic.
Nearby Callooh Callay’s Handshake is a well-balanced and easy-drinking rum-based sipper, listed on their COVID-inspired ‘Greetings’ menu, with Pedro Ximenez and Amontillado sherries bringing richness and subtle earthiness to a Venezuelan rum base that could otherwise risk being two-dimensional.
The versatility and approachability of sherry certainly leaves it well-equipped to satisfy increasingly diverse and sophisticated drinking habits, but that doesn’t mean that it should be an ingredient reserved for experienced bartenders and cocktail aficionados.
It can simply be consumed chilled, neat, over ice, or, in the style of bitters, as a sort of cocktail seasoning. Take your favourite stirred cocktail, add 5ml of sherry to the mix, and chances are you’ll elevate it into something transcendent! For example, let’s take a basic Dry Martini, and spice it up with some fino sherry. Add the following to a mixing tin:
50ml Dry Gin (try Erika Dry Gin)
5ml Dry Vermouth
5ml Fino Sherry
Stir over ice and fine strain into a chilled coupe glass, and serve with a lemon twist.
The tiniest addition of fino sherry to the mix brings extra dryness and a crisp salinity that adds to the complexity of the vermouth, working together with it to temper the gin, while accentuating the bright essential oils of the lemon twist. Salud!
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