Dust off the sherry bottle – it’s trendy now
The Spanish wine is becoming a fashionable cocktail addition
First published in The Irish Times
Sat, Sep 12, 2015, 02:15
I am always reluctant to add anything to my wine. I have too much respect for both winemaker and grape. If he or she had wanted their wine to taste fizzy and have bits of fruit floating around in it, they would have added fizzy water and bits of fruit; except then it isn’t wine. Besides, good wine tastes far too nice by itself to consider meddling around with it. Even Kir, the Burgundian aperitif of Aligoté and Crème de Cassis, seems merely a way of using up a rather acidic wine.Obviously there is a point to adding things to average wine – it helps mask any deficiencies. In the cold of winter, mulled wine can be warming, and in summer, a spritzer can be refreshing. But this summer a new wine-based cocktail has become very fashionable, and it is made using a very fine wine.
I have great sympathy for the Jerezanos. They produce sherry, one of the greatest drinks known to man, one that requires lengthy ageing and expert blending. The world, sadly, ignores them much of the time. Despite sherry being hip in the wine bars of London and elsewhere, sales of the real stuff are steady rather than brilliant. However, rescue may be at hand. Sherry cocktails are taking off. You may have come across white port and tonic, muddled or garnished with fresh mint. A rebujito is the Spanish equivalent, a fino sherry with tonic and ice. Apparently they have been knocking it back for years at fiestas all around the south of Spain. It does have advantages; the lovely taste of fino sherry but less of the alcohol, so you don’t slide under the table after a few drinks. If you find fino and tonic a little too dry, you can always add lemonade instead. There are even a few pre-mixed versions available. But this is only the start of sherry and cocktails. The internet is coming down with recipes. Sherry company Lustau has its own site, with suggestions for every style of sherry. Talia Baiocchi has published a book, Sherry: A Modern Guide to the Wine World’s Best-kept Secret, with Cocktails and Recipes.
I thought this was something new, but a little research showed that sherry cocktails go back to the 19th century, which saw the creation of two classics, the Bamboo and the Adonis. And of course there is the sherry cobbler.The Bamboo, invented in the 1890s in the Grand Hotel in Yokohama, Japan, calls for equal parts of fino sherry and dry vermouth with two dashes of Angostura bitters and two of orange bitters. The Adonis, apparently named after a Broadway musical, is made up of two parts fino sherry to one part sweet vermouth with two dashes of orange bitters. The cobbler is of even earlier origin. Recipes vary greatly but all contain sherry (fino or amontillado), sugar and lots of ice. Most contain citrus, usually a slice or two of orange, as well.Moving up in strength, sherry brandy is also now back in fashion, as an ingredient in cocktails. This goes through a unique solera system, producing distinctive, sometimes exquisite brandies. I visited the Lepanto distillery in Gonzalez Byass earlier this year and tasted some amazing brandies. Sadly, they are not available in Ireland. However, if you are travelling back from Spain, look for them in travel retail shops – Lepanto is very cheap given the quality.At a more rarified level, Fernando Castilla and Bodegas Tradicion both make superb sherry brandies. They are not cheap, however. Celtic Whiskey has the Bodegas Tradicion brandy for €75.99 and the amazing Tradicion Platinum brandy for €289.99.I am glad that the sherry houses have found a new audience for their wonderful wines, and I hope it wins new converts to this unique drink. However, I cannot help shuddering slightly at the idea of adding the finest old amontillado to a cocktail.
Tio Pepe Palamino Fino
One of the best wine brands of all; delicious, light, elegant and refreshing with subtle flavours of almond and green olives.
Stockists: Very widely available including O’Briens, Tesco, Dunnes, SuperValu.
La Iña Fino sherry
A great name in sherry, now revived. Lovely tangy fresh dry wine with nuts, green apples and a bracing salinity.
Stockists: Mitchell & Son, chq, Sandycove & Avoca, Kilmacanogue; McCabes, Foxrock & Blackrock.
Lustau Solera Gran Reserva Finest Selection, Brandy de Jerez
Remarkable brandy and remarkable value too. Coffee, caramel, chocolate, burnished old mahogany furniture and nuts.
Stockists: Mitchell & Son, chq. The Wine Centre, Kilkenny; McCabe’s;