We're more than a little crazy about wine at the restaurant where I work. So, it stands to reason that some of the cocktails we have draw inspiration from the wine world.
For example, we recently picked up several bottles of fino sherry. At first, I wasn't sure what to think of the venerable fortified wine. But now that I've had a chance to mix up some things with it, I may make sherry cocktails my drink of choice all spring and summer this year.
The odds are pretty good that you haven't had much in the way of sherry, unless you found out about (and then drank way too much of) sweet and nutty Harvey's Bristol Cream sherry back in college. Harvey's and fino sherry are on different ends of the wide spectrum of sherries available.
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All sherries are made the same way: Wine from the Jerez region of Spain is fortified with neutral grape spirits, and allowed to age. Most sherry you will find be one of three types.
Fino sherry undergoes the least aging (and ages under a layer of natural yeast that protects the sherry from oxidation), giving it a relatively delicate flavor. Oloroso sherry is the most aged (and is exposed to open air to encourage oxidation), with a robust nutty flavor. In the middle is amontillado, which starts out similar to a fino but is then exposed to air like an oloroso, and as you'd expect has characteristics in between fino and oloroso.
Each type of sherry has its own merits, but for an aperitif cocktail I'd go right for lighter fino. Keep in mind that while sherry is a fortified wine, it is still a wine, and will lose quality once opened.
If you're not going to go through all of it the day you open it, store it in the fridge. Finos should be treated like regular wine; a Spaniard won't let an open fino even sit overnight, but it should still be OK after a day or two. Amontillado can go for up to about two weeks. Since oloroso is already oxidized, it can handle a couple of months.
One sherry cocktail with quite the long history is a Sherry Cobbler. The Cobbler is a specific style of drink that dates back to the 19th Century. As with other cocktails from way back when, the Cobbler is a fairly simple matter. It's your tipple of choice, mixed with fruit and sugar, then garnished with whatever fresh fruit is in season. Since sherry is Spanish, it figures that the natural companion in the drink is a slice of orange.
The basic recipe for a sherry cobbler is ripe for experimentation. Other fruits are often added, and a splash of spirits is certainly a welcome addition. The traditional way to make a cobbler is to simply toss everything into the shaker (including the piece of fruit), shake it up, then pour and enjoy. You can get more effect from the fruit by introducing a muddler to the process, but it's not the end of the world if you don't feel like muddling.
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If you look through sherry cobbler recipes, you'll note that quite a few of them specify that the drink is to be sipped through a straw. What's going on here? It's simple. Back when the drink was introduced in the mid- to late 1800s, the drinking straw was a fashionable new accessory in the beverage world. So, in deference to history, I'll recommend the exact same thing. Sherry Cobbler 4 ounces fino or amontillado sherry 1 rounded barspoon sugar 1 1/4-inch thick slice of half an orange
Shake well with crushed ice. Pour directly into a tall glass, adding more crushed ice to fill. Garnish lavishly with fresh seasonal fruit, and add a straw.
Variations: -Add a wedge of lemon. -Add a chunk of pineapple. -Muddle the fruit and sugar before adding the sherry. -Add a barspoon or two of liqueur. Maraschino is quite intriguing. A nice orange liqueur is a natural. Or toss in a few drops of absinthe if you dare.