The first thing that probably comes to mind when someone says the word sherry is its use in cooking. While the fortified wine does have its place in the kitchen, Stephanie Teslar is using it to mix up five different cocktails at Blue Hound Kitchen & Cocktails. If you're not already on the sherry cocktail bandwagon, take note because its combined high complexity and low alcohol content make it a winner for making drinks.
Stephanie Teslar's love of sherry began when she wanted to really pull some Spanish influence into her cocktail program at Criollo Latin Kitchen in Flagstaff. The more she learned about it and used it, the more she began to appreciate it both on its own and in cocktails.
Now Teslar sees many bartenders branching out of base spirits and feels that sherry's on the rise in the cocktail community. Before you go mixing up drinks with the fortified wine, though, she does recommend that you educate yourself on some sherry basics first.
In terms of flavor, she says Fino will be dry and light, Manzanilla will have a more briney and salty quality, Amontillado will be sweet and nutty, and PX or Jerez Dulce will give you more richly sweet, dried fruit flavors. However, with twelve different varieties, that's just scratching the surface on this fermented then fortified wine.
However, Teslar says those distinct differences in sherry varietals make the wine very versatile. Since it is fortified, it's going to add a lot of depth and multi-dimensionality to a drink when used properly. Sherry is also well-rounded overall due to the oxidation and aging, much like other barrel-aged liquors and wines.
Since it's a wine and not a spirit, it's not going to pack the same boozey punch. Teslar says this makes it ideal for lighter brunch or lunch cocktails or even a flavorful low ABV shim. It also means you can help yourself to one or two more drinks without over-imbibing (but you didn't hear that from me).
From there, it's all a matter of trial and error in application. Teslar recommends Lustau for sherry newbies because it's readily available and relatively inexpensive for the quality you get. While she loves pairing a crisp Fino with oysters in the daytime, she says Amontillado's hazelnut finish and light vanilla-y sweetness is great at night. It's also a good, accessible variety to try first if you're ready to dip your toes in the sherry pool.
Teslar's menu at Blue Hound mixes sherry in inventive ways. The Erin Rose, with its coconut chai syrup, tropical fruit juice blend, and rum, uses sherry in a tiki setting, while the Spaghetti Western keeps it light and classy with Manzanilla, Prosecco, Cappelletti, and and herbes de provence syrup.
If you're still not sure where to start, try this take on a fizz using Oloroso sherry, whisky, and orgeat.
Baker's Dozen ¾ ounce Yamazaki 12 year whisky 1 ½ ounce Lustau Oloroso sherry ½ ounce housemade orgeat ¾ ounce lemon juice 1 egg white
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Give this combination a vigorous dry shake (no ice) first, then add ice to your shaker and give it another shake to make sure the egg white is light, airy, and fully incorporated. Strain into a Collins glass filled with ice. Top with soda water and garnish with lemon zest.