Talking about “sherry” is like talking about “fruit” or any other wide culinary swath. Hold in your mind the flavors and textures of a blueberry, next a lemon, and finally a watermelon. Quite a range, no? Sherry too has a tremendous variety: the three major categories are dry, sweet, and Goldilocks’ favorite, the not-too-dry, not-too-sweet blended. Of course, within those categories there are differences in production, fortification, and where, how, and how long the wine was aged that result in a myriad of different styles.
So where to start? I suggest with the lightest style: dry, refreshing Fino, perfect for hot-weather sipping. And after you try it neat, you can blend it into a cocktail. At this time of year when I have guests over for a patio barbecue I like to start the evening with a cocktail made with sherry. Serving a sherry cocktail instead of something like a Julep accomplishes a couple of objectives: sherry is an affordable base ingredient for a mixed drink, and so a way to serve a crowd elegantly while being budget-conscious; and while fortification increases sherry’s alcohol content above that of most wine, it is still quite low compared to spirits, making it a good social quaff on a hot afternoon. No need to worry about anyone falling over on the hibachi. Lately I’ve been making one with Valdespino “Inocente” Fino, a little Cocchi Americano aperitif, and a dash of celery bitters. I call it the Apio – Spanish for celery – it tastes salty, savory, and light, and as a drink with bitterness, herbaceousness, and high acidity, it is super food-friendly. It’s divine with an easy cocktail-hour spread of gamey ham, briny olives, and crunchy almonds, leaving you time, room, and budget to put something special on the grill.
Stir liquid ingredients briefly with ice – you don’t want to dilute the drink too much, but you do want to get the Cocchi cold. Strain into a coupe and garnish with a twist.
Want to explore an entire world of fortified wines? Check out this Astor Center class on October 29th.