Sherry isn’t just for little old ladies anymore. It’s also for cocktails. An increasing number of bartenders are adding sherry cocktails to their bar menus, especially as low-alcohol alternatives to other classics. “The sherry itself lends a unique complexity while holding back on the ABV [alcohol by volume],” says NYC bartender Marshall Altier. These cocktails are great for warm weather and lazy afternoons.
Sherry is wine made from white grapes, then fortified with grape spirit in order to increase the alcohol content. Then, it’s aged in casks to develop a richer flavor. The alcohol content of sherry is around 15–22%, which means its stronger than wine but much less intense that other spirits which are at least 40% alcohol.
New & Improved Sherry Cocktail
“In general, lower alcohol cocktails are one way to experiment with the synergies and flavor combinations that we so much enjoy in cocktails,” says Altier. His New and Improved Sherry Cocktail “is an example of this.” It’s based on the Improved Cocktail, which dates all the way back to the first American bartender, Jerry Thomas. It’s similar to an Old Fashioned. In his sherry version, Altier tells us, “the maraschino liqueur and absinthe stand in and meddle with the layers of flavor of Amontillado-style sherry.” If you’re just getting into sherry and sherry cocktails, Altier says, “this drink is completely satisfying in place of a traditional cocktail while keeping you standing and it’s a great way to introduce your palate to the various ingredients.”
2 ounces Palo Cortado or Amontillado Sherry
1 teaspoon grade B maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon maraschino liqueur
1/2 teaspoon absinthe
2 dashes Fee Brothers Whiskey Barrel-Aged Bitters
Pour all ingredients in a mixing glass. Add ice and stir. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.
“The Andalusian Aperitif,” says Altier, “is a great introductory drink for Fino-style sherries. These tend to be light and have a refreshing saltiness, due to the maritime climate in which they are produced.” Fino sherry also has the lowest sugar content of all sherry styles, which is why it’s light and lower in alcohol. But if you aren’t into brine, don’t worry. “The cucumbers and honey tame this briny flavor and are totally refreshing,” Altier says reassuringly.
4-1/2 ounces Manzanilla or Fino Sherry
1 teaspoon honey syrup (2 parts honey: 1 part water)
1 small pinch sea salt
4 slices of cucumber, skin on
Muddle 3 slices cucumber in honey syrup. Pour sherry and add salt. Add ice and shake. Double strain into a small cocktail glass or wine glass. Garnish with 1 slice of cucumber