Friday, December 18, 2009

Sherry in the mix

To me, there's something unmistakably adult about cocktails made with Sherry. The deeply savory, almost umami, quality present in all sorts of non-blended sherries can give cocktails a resonant, lip-smacking and crave-worthy piquancy. In summer, that means Martinis made with a dash of manzanilla; in winter, Manhattans tarted up with some Amontillado or Oloroso. 

So dropping by the Clover Club for the annual Vinos de Jerez Cocktail Competition this week was  a no-brainer for me. And while I couldn't hang for all the cocktails, I did get to try the winner made by Charles Joly from Chicago’s The Drawing Room, Bread & Wine. 

Usually, ingredient-based cocktail competitions draw too many recipes where the main ingredient is overwhelming; not here. In fact, for me, a few of the drinks needed more sherry and less tartness, or had an intensity from other ingredients that masked much sherry contribution. I know, I know, sometimes an ingredient is obscured in a well- balanced drink, but the same thing can happen when too much effort to craft a unique drink masks its contribution. But getting bartenders to create and customers to order drinks made with sherry is the goal, so just a whiff of Andalucia may sometimes be enough.

Here's the winning recipe:

1 oz Lustau “Don Nuño” Dry Oloroso
1 ½ oz Balvenie Scotch Doublewood 12 year
5 dashes Absinthe (preferably Sirene Absinthe)
½ oz fresh lemon juice
¼-1/3 oz maple syrup (depending on tartness of lemons)

Fill Old Fashioned glass with ice, dash with absinthe and set aside to season. Combine Sherry, Balvenie, lemon juice and maple syrup in mixing glass. Add ice and shake well. Empty Old Fashioned glass, coating sides with absinthe. Add Kold Draft or large pieces of ice. Strain cocktail into glass. Cut a strip of orange zest using a vegetable peeler. Mist top of glass with orange oil, rub rim and place decoratively in glass. No straws please.

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