Monday, September 27, 2010


The first time I encountered a mixed drink made with Sherry—a Sherry-tini—I  was horrified. I guess I’m a purist—I like my fino Sherry straight up and chilled, in a proper stemmed Sherry copa. Likewise, it seems a shame to mess with a mellow amontillado or palo cortado.

Nevertheless, I must admit that Sherry, slightly nutty, lightly fruity, a tiny bit salty, adds complexity and depth of flavor to a cocktail. It’s anyway more interesting than vermouth. I decided to give it a whirl. Or shake. Or stir.

By the way, Sherry is a protected denomination for wines made in the region of southern Spain around Jerez. (That’s why I always write Sherry with a capital “S”.) It comes in several types. The driest one is pale fino. One sort of fino comes only from Sanlucar de Barrameda and is called manzanilla. So far, I’ve only experimented with fino in cocktails, but I am guessing that oloroso Sherry, on the sweet spectrum, might make a good mixer.

Gorgeous autumnal weather is a fine excuse for a cocktail party. Here are two to try, plus a recipe for cheese puffs to accompany the drinks.

Sherrytini Cocktail

Dry Sherry stands in for vermouth in this twist on a classic martini. If you use manzanilla Sherry, spike the drinks with manzanilla olives. If you choose dry fino, finish with a twist of orange peel. Warming the twist over a lighted match releases the citrus fragrance. Chill the martini glasses before mixing the cocktail.

Makes 4 cocktails.

8 olives or 4 twists orange peel
Cracked ice
8 oz gin
2 oz manzanilla or fino Sherry

Stick olives on 4 picks and place in four chilled martini cocktail glasses. Or, if using orange peel, hold each strip of peel, skin side down, briefly over a lighted match. Drop the orange peels into cocktail glasses.

Place ice in a jar or cocktail shaker. Add the gin and Sherry. Shake or stir. Strain the Sherrytini into the cocktail glasses and serve.

Sherry-Lemon Cocktail

Makes 4 cocktails.

Grenadine is pomegranate syrup. It gives a fruity flavour and a deep blush to this cocktail. If available, add a few ruby seeds from a fresh pomegranate to the drink. Brandy de Jerez is Spanish brandy from the same region where Sherry is made.

Cracked ice
4 fl oz dry Sherry
4 fl oz Brandy de Jerez
6 tablespoons grenadine syrup
4 tablespoons lemon juice
4 strips lemon peel

Put the ice in a cocktail shaker. Pour over the Sherry, brandy, grenadine and lemon juice. Shake the cocktail. Strain into four cocktail glasses. Hold each twist of lemon peel, skin side down, briefly over a lighted match and drop it into the cocktail.

Buñuelos de Queso
Cheese Puffs

Vary the flavour by choosing different cheeses. Manchego is excellent, but smoked Idiazábal will give the puffs a different dimension. The puffs can be fried or baked.

Makes about 45 puffs.

1 cup water
½ teaspoon salt
Pinch of thyme
Pinch of cayenne
1/3 cup olive oil
1 cup plain flour
4 eggs
2 cups grated cheese
Olive oil for deep frying

Place the water, salt, thyme, cayenne and oil in a pan. Bring to a boil. Lower the heat and add the flour all at once, stirring hard with a wooden spoon until the mixture thickens and pulls away from the sides of the pan. Remove from heat and allow to stand 2 minutes.

Beat in the eggs, one at a time. Thoroughly mix in one egg before adding the next. Stir in the grated cheese.

Place oil in a deep frying pan to a depth of 1 in and heat it until shimmering,  360ºF. Dip two teaspoons in oil. Scoop up batter with one spoon and use the other to push the batter into the hot oil. Don’t crowd the pan. Puffs will bob to the surface. Carefully turn them so they brown on both sides. Remove when golden, 2 to 3 minutes, and drain on paper towels.  Serve immediately.

Variation: Bake the cheese puffs instead of frying them. Line an oven tin with baking parchment. Drop spoonfuls of the batter at least 1 in apart. Bake in preheated oven, 375ºF, until golden, 30 minutes.