Like pretty much most Americans these days, I never really got sherry. To me, sherry always stood for something little old ladies poured out of intricate crystal cut-glass decanters around four in the afternoon. I wasn’t a little old lady, so I never bothered to learn about this fortified wine from Spain.
Until a few years ago when I actually went to Jerez, Spain, which is at the heart of what is known as the Sherry Triangle; three cities in southern Spain that encapsulate the majority of grapes grown for sherry production. It was there that I had the chance to learn about sherry production, taste the local food, drink the wines, and take in the air. It was at that moment, surrounded by piles of freshly-caught chilled shellfish, aged cheeses, dried sausages, fried almonds, and smoked paprika, that I truly understood what sherry was really for: drinking.
And drinking with food, for certain. I was taught incorrectly, early in my bartending career, that sherry was sweet, and made to be sipped in tiny glassfuls with dessert. But after that fateful trip to Spain I learned the truth, that the lighter, drier styles of sherry such as Fino, Amontillado, Palo Cortado and Oloroso are perfectly suited to drinking by the bottle with lunch or dinner. And it was then that my thoughts naturally turned to cocktails.
The history of using sherry in cocktails is just about as long as the history of cocktails itself. Sherry found its way into all manner of drinks, from punches to juleps, at a very early stage in the game. Sadly, though, sherry slowly fell out of favor with American drinking audiences and sherry cocktails were left by the wayside in the late Twentieth Century. But thanks to the work of some of this country’s more innovative bartenders, sherry is again making a comeback and once again finding its way onto cocktail menus.
Naren Young, beverage director at Empellon in New York, was inspired by fall flavors and driven by his love of all things sherry, to come up with this contemplative cocktail, appropriately named Autumn.
1.5 oz reposado tequila
.75 oz Amontillado sherry
.25 oz Clear Creek pear eau de vie
.25 maple syrup
2 dashes Angostura bitters
Stir ingredients with cracked ice and strain over fresh ice into an Old Fashioned glass. Garnish with a thin slice of fresh apple.