A sherry list wouldn’t be such a radical thing in modern-day Spain, the drink’s birthplace, where the fortified wine is the norm and has been for centuries. Up until recently, though, it had fallen out of favor elsewhere.
“If you go to any common bar and ask them what their sherry list looks like, they’re going to laugh at you,” says The Gladly beverage director Brian Goodwin, himself chuckling at the thought.
In coastal, gastronomically inclined cities like New York, San Francisco, New Orleans, and Seattle, however, sherry is coming out of obscurity. According to Goodwin, it was on a recent trip to Mockingbird Hill, a sherry and Spanish ham bar in Washington D.C., that The Gladly owner Andrew Fritz rediscovered the spirit — and in turn sparked Goodwin’s interest in the Old World drink.
Fritz gifted Goodwin a copy of Sherry, written by wine and spirits writer Talia Baiocchi, which upon its release in 2014 squarely validated the beverage’s re-emergence at craft cocktails bars around the country. The drink would eventually become popular in Phoenix as an ingredient in cocktails, but has yet to be emphasized with any real intent as a standalone drink — until now.
Goodwin has put together a small sherry list, designated as the drink-pairing of choice for The Gladly's newly minted oyster bar. The idea is that whether you’re slurping back some salty-sweet Kumamotos or some plump and rich Sunset Beach oysters, you can refresh your palate with a glass of Spain’s finest. The sherry selection ranges from light and crisp Fino sherries, with which a bartender will greet you with upon ordering, and rich and nutty Olorosso or Amontillado sherries to dark and decadent dessert sherries, like the Pedro Ximénez style.
When The Gladly’s oyster bar was being conceptualized, a focused sherry program seemed like a natural fit to Goodwin.
“You want to enjoy that first taste over and over again,” Goodwin says. “You eat something wonderfully briny and rich like an oyster with something dry and refreshing like a sherry, which really acts to cleanse your palate, so when you go to try that oyster again, it becomes a new experience.”
A palate cleanser comes in handy especially when the oysters are sprinkled with any of The Gladly’s from-scratch condiments such as Worcestershire made and aged in-house, freshly grated horseradish, spicy cocktail sauce, fish sauce vinaigrette, and Champagne mignonette.
Goodwin is experimenting with additional condiments, more in line with The Gladly’s extensive whiskey offerings. Alongside oysters, he'll serve droppers filled with scotch — the kind that might have been aged in sherry barrels — meant to be dripped lightly over the half-shells before slurping them back, an unabashedly indulgent move and a combination he swears by.
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“The brininess of the Islay whiskies goes beautifully with these,” Goodwin says of the smoky spirit made in coastal Scotland. “And just a couple drops of Laphroaig on your oysters is the little bit of salt and pepper that it needs.”
Gladly joins Little Cleo’s as the second of two restaurants where the chefs and barmen are pairing the bi-valves with less common drinks. Little Cleo’s has long emphasized pairing oysters with a long drink of absinthe, diluted slowly with water and, optionally, sugar.