Published on May 15th, 2013 | by Regan1
The History and Evolution of Sherry in Cocktails
Long the territory of grannies and teetotalers, sherry’s good name is finally being restored, thanks to a few vocal advocates and centuries of Spanish tradition that refused to be swayed by the changing trends. Produced near Jerez in Spain for thousands of years, sherry gained a reputation as the finest wine in the world during the age of European exploration. Like other fortified wines (eg., port, madeira), sherry was popular thanks to its elevated alcohol content and relative sturdiness over long voyages. But unlike the others, sherry contains a world of varietal distinctions, from pale, saline fino to rich, dark oloroso, controlled by a complicated system of yeast-based fermentation and oxidization control that would make the hipster fermentation set burn with envy.
In the mid-1800s, American innovation married easy-drinking sherry with the newfangled inventions of crushed ice and drinking straws to create the sherry cobbler, which took cocktail drinkers by storm and spawned a whole family of summertime sippers. With Prohibition, harder stuff took the front seat (boozing time was precious – why waste it on wines?) and sherry never really recovered its spot in the limelight.
In recent years, wine geeks and cocktail seekers alike have been rediscovering sherry, reveling in its uniquely savory notes that pair extraordinarily well with food. Its broad range also allows it to step into a number of cocktails, from playing the part of dry vermouth in a classic martini to standing up to dark rum in bitters-forward concoctions like Death & Co’s Legend. Wine professionals like the Breslin’s Carla Rzeszewski and cocktail gurus like PDT’s Jim Meehan are looking to the future; but how did we get from there to here?
That’s where The Beagle co-owner (and sherry devotee) Dan Greenbaum and Peter Liem, co-author of Sherry, Manzanilla & Montilla, come in. On Monday, May 20, they’ll host “The History and Evolution of Sherry in Cocktails” at the Beagle as part of the Manhattan Cocktail Classic. They’ll serve up and discuss sherry cocktails as they’ve progressed over the decades, from that first cobbler and other 19th-century innovations, through the quiet period, and into the bright light of today’s cocktail landscape. Only a few tickets remain; get yours today to show off your knowledge next time a friend tells you they’ve “discovered” this amazing cocktail component.
Can’t wait til Monday? Visit The Beagle in advance to sample their prodigious sherry selection – by itself, or in a cocktail. Pro tip: if you order the Lifetime Ban (with NY Distilling Co Perry’s Tot Navy Strength Gin, Fino Sherry, Blanc Vermouth & Mint), make sure you get some fried pickles to make sure you can walk out of the bar unassisted. Pro tip #2: Go for Happy Hour from 6-7pm Sunday-Thursday when cocktails are $10 and sherry is half off. Check out the Beagle’s new spring menu here.
Regan Hofmann is an unaccredited supertaster whose writing about food can be found at NYPress.com and the Village Voice’s Fork in the Road, among others. She has lots of opinions, which she shares on Twitter.