Sherry — a fortified wine from the Spanish city of Jerez — often carries low-brow connotations. Though it was once considered one of the world’s greatest and most versatile wines, an influx of cheap and sickeningly sweet blends caused Sherry to become widely misunderstood.
However, thanks to a wave of interest in artisanal wines, as well as a focus on small bodegas producing tiny batches, Sherry has regained popularity. It’s been popping up on liquor menus all across the world, proving itself to be equally enjoyable when served straight or mixed into a cocktail.
There are four basic types of Sherry: Fino and Manzanilla, Amontillado, Oloroso, and Pedro Ximenez. Each has its own distinct flavor profile and must be used differently than the others.
Fino Sherry is the driest of the four, a white wine generally made with highly acidic Palomino grapes. It pairs particularly well with clear spirits such as vodka and gin, as well as aromatics like vermouth. Manzanilla is essentially Fino Sherry that’s been aged in the coastal town of Sanlúcar de Barrameda. Due to the grapes being exposed to cool ocean breezes, the Sherry that’s produced is more delicate and subtle.
Recommended Cocktail: The Tuxedo, a classic made with gin, Sherry, and orange bitters. It’s dry and slightly nutty, with a quick burst of citrus. See recipe
Amontillado is the product of a layer of yeast (called the flor) being removed during the aging process. This removal causes the Sherry to have more air exposure inside the barrel, resulting in a complex finish, with nutty and umami flavors. It pairs best with oaky spirits such as bourbon and rye.
Recommended Cocktail: The Up-to-Date, a concoction of whiskey, Sherry, Grand Marnier, and Angostura bitters. Though the original recipe doesn’t specify the type of Sherry, Amontillado rounds it out for a spicy, Manhattan-like feel. See recipe
Oloroso Sherry skips the the flor process entirely and is immediately fortified after the first fermentation. Made with Palomino grapes, this variety is typically dry, but can be slightly sweet if Moscatel grapes are added. It goes well with molasses-forward spirits like dark rum.
Recommended Cocktail: The Smooth Operator, which (as the name suggests) is remarkably easy to drink. Dark rum, Sherry, sugar, and lemon make for a complex yet refreshing sip. See recipe
Pedro Ximenez Sherry is unlike the others in that, instead of using Palomino grapes, it’s made from the Pedro Ximenez (PX) variety. These grapes are picked at full ripeness and are sun-dried to concentrate the sugars. The grapes (or raisins, if you will) are then pressed, producing a dark, viscous liquid that’s partially fermented and fortified. This Sherry is often blended with Amontillado and Oloroso varieties to create what we know as Cream Sherry. Due to its sweetness, PX Sherry is best used in dessert cocktails.
Recommended Cocktail: An update on the Baltimore Eggnog, traditionally made with Madeira, brandy, and rum. Replace the Madeira for PX Sherry, which adds a currant flavor that pairs perfectly with the molasses of the rum. See recipe
For more on Sherry, including its rich history and unique recipes, we recommend picking up a copy of Sherry: A Modern Guide to the Wine World’s Best-Kept Secret.
This article was originally published as a guest post on The Fervent Shaker