Few products in the beverage industry have earned such a passionate following among bar professionals as Sherry. Spain’s fortified wine has an ardent fan base, bolstered by bartenders who offer it neat at the bar and as a cocktail ingredient. When it’s mixed into drinks, Sherry packs a complex punch—it can be salty and sweet, subtle and rich, complex and refreshing. Myriad styles within the category, from Fino and Manzanilla to Oloroso and Pedro Ximénez, allow it to play in countless ways.
“Sherry can bring lovely nuance or intense flavor,” says Deborah Hansen, the owner, chef, and sommelier at Spanish restaurant Taberna de Haro in the Boston suburb of Brookline, Massachusetts. “In cocktails, Sherry adds complexity without weight and intrigue without overbearance. A barspoon of Fino dries out a cocktail that feels too rich, an ounce of Manzanilla makes a drink infinitely more refreshing, swapping Pedro Ximénez for sugar augments complexity, and Amontillado can take a drink to a more serious place.”
Taberna de Haro lists 95 Sherries on its menu, offering roughly 15 by the glass and ten Sherry cocktails. And while Hansen changes the venue’s cocktail list seasonally, she makes sure Sherry always has a hearty presence. In winter she often highlights Olorosos and Pedro Ximénez varieties, while in summer she emphasizes Finos and lighter Amontillados. Hansen likes to mix Sherry with vermouth, citing the classic Bamboo cocktail. Among Taberna de Haro’s popular Sherry drinks is The Nomad ($14), an Old Fashioned blending Nomad Outland whiskey, Lustau San Emilio Pedro Ximénez Sherry, and Angostura Aromatic bitters. Taberna de Haro was open only for takeout and delivery during the winter and reopened in limited capacity in March.
In Brooklyn, New York, the Latin cocktail bar Leyenda offers between five and seven Sherry cocktails at any given time and has a Fino Sherry on draft regularly. Leyenda owner Ivy Mix says Sherry is well-received at her bar and is an integral part of the cocktail program. The Palo Negro ($14), made with Partida Reposado Tequila, Lustau Peninsula Palo Cortado Sherry, Cruzan Black Strap rum, Grand Marnier, and Demerara syrup, is popular. “Sherry can make a so-so cocktail fantastic,” Mix says. “The flavors in Sherry elevate other ingredients. It has an umami, salty, nuttiness that can highlight and act as a conduit to other flavors.” Leyenda is currently open for limited indoor dining.
Across the country at The Eveleigh in West Hollywood, California, bar manager John Uhorchuk says Sherry is growing in popularity. For guests who are unfamiliar with the fortified wine, he notes that cocktails are a great entry point. “The benefit of Sherry is its versatility,” he says. “Sherry’s spectrum of styles offers a surplus of creative options when imagining cocktails. If used correctly, Sherry can marry various ingredients together and amplify them.”
The Eveleigh’s Sherry drinks include The Dead Poet ($16), made with Tito’s vodka, Lustau Jarana Fino Sherry, Bénédictine liqueur, and Pernod absinthe, and the Iced Sherry Tea ($16), blending Earl Grey tea-infused Lustau Los Arcos Amontillado Sherry, Evan Williams Bourbon, Miracle Mile Bergamot bitters, and a house-made blend of agave, honey, and simple syrup. The bar is currently open.
Jabriel Donohue, the bar manager at The Mountaineering Club, a rooftop bar atop the Graduate Seattle Hotel, says Sherry isn’t popular by the glass at his venue but that he routinely uses it to bring depth and dimension to the cocktail menu. He likes to have three or four Sherry drinks, noting that a lot of his guests aren’t familiar with it but appreciate its flavor when mixed into cocktails. The Mountaineering Club’s Sherry drinks include the Littlefoot ($20), mixing Rán Sea Salt vodka, Lustau Don Nuño Dry Oloroso Sherry, Italicus Rosolio di Bergamotto and Luxardo Bitter Bianco liqueurs, and Fusion Napa Valley Verjus Blanc.
“Sherry brings a fantastic length and depth to cocktails that’s hard to achieve in other ways,” Donohue says. “It has a lot of flavors that exist individually in other ingredients—like nuttiness, dried fruit, and salt—but it brings them together in a single liquid. It helps build a better structure between strong, sweet, and umami. Sherry brings an impressive amount of complexity to a drink.”