Getting to Know Sherry

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I live in a household which receives a fair amount of periodicals.  One of my favorite things to do with these papers involves a good look at the food & drink section.  Recently upon  reading a certain newspaper, I discovered some interesting information on sherry from Spain.  I must admit that for the most part sherry is something I just did not give a lot of thought.  Sure, I have given it a whirl in a cream sauce or two and maybe added some to a mushroom ragout but that would be it.  The fact is I have never thought much about experiencing sherry the drink as a drink.

The basis of the sherry article revolved heavily around using the wine to make cocktails.  As much as I love drinking a nice glass of wine or having a good beer.  There is something about mixing a tasty cocktail that satisfies my need to be creative.  Even though I may be using outstanding ingredients in creating a cocktail it is I, the mixer, who controls the final outcome of taste.  Furthermore, the article mentioned that sherry is an under-appreciated wine in the U.S.  Personally, I love rooting for an underdog that happens to be a great bargain at the same time.  Learning that sherry makes an excellent addition to a cocktail made total sense to me the instant I read it.  Despite my lack of proper sherry tasting moments.  The idea of adding some to a sauce to create depth of flavor resonated well with mixing it into a drink for a like affect.

Deciding I would need some help in my new look at sherry.  I gave the experts at our Seattle store a call, experts in Berkeley would have worked just as well.  After a quick chat with the boss man, he chose a few nice starter bottles to get me rolling on my new project. (You too can find plenty of great Sherry available on The Spanish Table wine website!)  After our conversation, I reasoned a nice get-together with some good friends would be in order to conduct some experiments.  My brain automatically took a turn to food before I even picked up the phone to invite some folks over.  The cocktails that I would be creating for the evening would be bold.  I needed some food that would likewise stand up to such flavors.

Ideas for simple food with plenty of flavor came easy with a good glimpse into “The Spanish Table” cookbook by our own Steve Winston.  There I found recipes for a Manchego cheese artichoke spread, Portuguese sardine pate, and a yellow Pincho seasoning that I used for some lamb skewers.  In addition to those recipes I whipped up a nice plate of some home cured sausages highlighted by some Spanish style chorizo and another cured sausage that I can only refer to as “Mystery Salami.”  The contents of which only a few select people are allowed to know.  My chorizo also found its way into some amazing clams my sister-in-law Amanda made with some white wine and saffron.  Add piles of crusty bread to the mix and this evening’s eating was set to go.

In order to keep things simple for the evening only two cocktail selections would be available for party-goers.  My first choice would consist of a wonderful sherry martini.  A simple mix of vodka, sherry and dry vermouth tossed around in a shaker and garnished by two TST lemon stuffed olives.  Everyone agreed the final product was awesome.  Thais, my lovely wife who until that point only enjoyed super dirty martinis fell in love with the drink.  The sherry added a nice nutty flavor with a good amount of saltiness that finished well after each sip.  The next drink option I admit was selected mostly on name, “The Witch Doctor.”  Upon examining the ingredients it was determined the flavor would be excellent as well.  The Witch Doctor is mostly a combination of Spanish Brandy, Amontillado sherry, orange juice, Grand Marnier and a few dashes of orange bitters.  Then given a good toss around inside a shaker with ice.  This witchy drink was warm and bright with layer after layer of flavor.  Adding sherry created a perfect balance to a drink that would otherwise be too sweet for most tastes, mine included.

All in all, the evening was a huge a hit.  I did mention earlier that I received a few bottles in the mail from Seattle.  Of the three selections tasted, mine and the rest of guests’ hands down favorite was the Fino sherry by Lustau.  The lightest of all three sherries and perhaps the most complex in flavor.  We also sampled a bottle of Amontillado by Barbadillo.  Everyone enjoyed the flavor and it was the base sherry of both cocktails.  The third sherry was a deluxe sweet cream by Lustau.   Tasters commented on the fact that this sweet sherry was nothing like the crumby stuff grandma offered to her friends at garden club meetings.  We finished our evening with a small glass of this sherry and some homemade strawberry rhubarb pie, just perfect!  Now that you have finished my post on sherry.  I hope that you to will take the time to experience sherry “The Drink.”

Recipes for both cocktails as follows.

The Witch Doctor

2 oz Amontillado sherry
1/2 oz Grand Marnier
1/2 oz Spanish brandy
1/2 oz simple syrup
1/2 oz orange juice
3 dashes of orange bitters

Mix all ingredients together in a shaker with ice.
Serve in a chilled glass with a twist of orange.

Sherry Martini

2 oz of vodka or gin
1/2 oz of Amontillado sherry, or Fino Sherry
1/2 oz of dry vermouth

Mix all ingredients in a shaker with ice.
Serve in chilled glass with 2 TST lemon stuffed olives.

Cheers, Rob@TST

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