Once a popular tipple among the posh sort, sherry—that fortified wine of Iberian descent—has in modern times factored more into what goes on in the kitchen than the bar. But as spring and summer menus have rolled out, so too have cocktails featuring sherry in all its many forms, some as modifiers playing backup for a full-strength spirit, and some as low-proof soloists perfect for warm-weather sipping. Now, before you brush sherry off as faddish nonsense, note that the Sherry Cobbler was at one time (that being much of the 19th century) one of the most popular cocktails in America. And in the hands of today’s mixologists and bartenders, sherry is again making a play for bona fide bar-staple status.
The crew at Downtown Cocktail Room has been doubling down on sherry for some time, capitalizing on its variety, which includes light, dry fino and floral manzanilla, as well as rich oloroso and nutty amontillado. On the spring menu, find Space Jam & Cheese ($12), a playful take on picnic goodies served with a slice of Iberico cheese; a buttery, salty cracker; and a weightless basil foam over oloroso and muddled berries. Peachy Cheeks ($11) was inspired by the classic Cobbler, and delivers a mixture of apricot and espresso flavors that both confounds and delights. I fully expect to see the sherry love continue when DCR’s summer menu drops June 24.
At the Cosmopolitan, property mixologist Mariena Mercer also takes sherry seriously. “It reminds me of the different age statements of tequila,” says Mercer, who got her start as a tequila specialist. “They are so versatile and different. You can really find one that fits any style of drink.” In addition to a Lustau Sherry Flight ($16), Mercer uses amontillado in a classic Sherry Cobbler ($16) at Vesper, as well as in her Flight of Icarus ($16), a loose interpretation of the caipirinha. Oloroso makes for a sneaky-good cinnamon-fig-apricot take on the Cobbler, Sherry, Baby ($16). Mercer playfully points out that she chose that name before her former colleague Andrew Pollard—now a Wirtz Beverage Nevada mixologist—held a seminar called Sherry, Baby to get Las Vegas bartenders in on the sherry action.
“Sherry is here for the long haul,” Pollard says. He credits the efforts of beverage luminary Steve Olson (a.k.a. Wine Geek) for bringing awareness to the category since the early 2000s and for helping to found Sherry.org and the Vinos de Jerez cocktail competition. “In development, I use sherry as a ‘push and pull’ mechanism in the same capacity I would use a bitter or vermouth: I’d use a clean fino in an aperitif, and the complexity, nuttiness and spice from oloroso to balance a tiki cocktail.”
So, what will characterize the next round of summer and fall menus? “Tiki,” DCR bar manager Kevin Gorham says without hesitation. “The marriage of spice—clove, cinnamon and nutmeg—with tropical fruits.”
Sounds like a job for sherry!
As served at Vesper in the Cosmopolitan, $16
In a mixing glass, gently press 4 slices of orange with ½ ounce fig-and-cinnamon-infused simple syrup. Add 4 ounces Lustau oloroso sherry and ½ ounce Giffard’s apricot liqueur. Add ice, cover and shake for 20 seconds. Fill a chimney glass with freshly crushed ice; form and pack ice into a mound at the top. Strain the cocktail slowly over the crushed ice and garnish with a colorful paper straw (try ContainerStore.com), a dried apricot and a full mint sprig.
“My inspiration was to create the ultimate summer cocktail; the Sherry Cobbler is low in proof, so it’s a great cocktail to sip on a summer day. Also, I adore sherry in all its expressions, but I fell in love with the buttery richness of oloroso and wanted to build affinities with the fig, cinnamon and apricot.” – Mariena Mercer, property mixologist, the Cosmopolitan.