When you think of essential cocktail ingredients, whiskey, rum, and vodka top the list. But Spanish sherry, from manzanilla to Pedro Ximenez, was once the go-to spirit in bars across Europe and the US, and starred in some of the tastiest cocktails of the 19th century.
As the primary spirit in tipples and cobbler recipes from legends like Professor Jerry Thomas, sherry changed the way we drink alcohol. According to cocktail historian Paul Clarke, “One of the great innovations in mixology took place around the 1880s, when vermouth, sherry, and other fortified wines were mixed into ‘ancestrals’ [early cocktails] to subdue the alcohol’s bite and to add complexity of flavour.”
Before bartenders had easy access to exotic mixers and ingredients like bitters, syrups, mint and juice, barkeeps relied on the complexity of the spirits themselves to delight patrons. In the Golden Age of cocktails, tipples, toddies, flips, punches, and cobblers ruled the day—and sherry drove them all.
The Sherry Cobbler (sherry, sugar, ice, orange slice) was one of the first mixed drinks. It appeared in Jerry Thomas’ 1862 cocktail bible, The Bon-Vivants Companion, and was part of the new generation of mixed drinks that inspired bartenders (and bar lovers) to embrace more complicated cocktails.
Sherry fell into disuse during the creative cocktail blight of the 1970’s and 80s, but today the classic cocktail is back, and bartenders everywhere are pulling sherry off their grandmother’s shelf and putting it back where it belongs—in your glass.
Sherry adds a “savoury complexity to classic cocktails,” says Talia Baiocchi, author of Sherry: A Modern Guide to the Wine World’s Best-kept Secret. “Sherry is finally being understood as both a table wine and an element that can make a cocktail more complex.” Fino and manzanilla add brightness and brine, PX gives depth and richness; amontillado and oloroso provide nutty acidity and dried citrus.
Enjoy a taste of cocktail history at these innovative bars serving sherry the way it was meant to be enjoyed:
Best sherry bars in… Barcelona: Viblioteca & Monvínic
Literally meaning “wine library,” Viblioteca is the perfect place to discover a passion for traditional Spanish sherry. The constantly rotating selection, educational classes, and a focus on wine cocktails makes the experience accessible to sherry lovers and newbies alike. Take advantage of the stellar sherry selection and get back to basics with great the “Bamboo Cocktail”, the classic mix of dry vermouth and sherry.
Meanwhile, the restaurant/education centre Monvínic is bringing sherry into the 21st century. Featuring hundreds of wines on an iPad wine list, regionally specialised sommeliers do all the serving. Dive into Andalusian sherry, with cutting edge tech and impeccable taste.
For more recommendations in Barcelona, ask our local experts at Hotel Indigo Barcelona – Plaza Catalunya.
Best sherry bars in… London: Peg+Patriot
Try the award-winning “Young Cuban” cocktail at the Peg + Patriot: Bacardi, lemon juice, orgeat, fino sherry, and 4 sprigs of dill. It will change the way you look at fino sherry.
Best sherry bars in… Helsinki: Trilby & Chadwick
Steeped in history, the speakeasy Trilby & Chadwick is like a callback to a London private detective agency from the 19th century, making it quite possibly the perfect setting for Sherry-infused cocktails. Sample the “Mr. Bukowski”, made with Ron Zacapa, Punt e Mes vermouth, Pedro Ximénez sherry, maraschino liqueur and Angostura bitters.
Best sherry bars in… Rome: Stravinkij Bar
The Stravinkij Bar is a stylish watering hole with deep armchairs, luscious sherry-infused drinks, and a rich history. Raise your sherry glass to drinking alums like Picasso and Cocteau. Made with Fino sherry, Cinzano Rossi vermouth, and orange bitters, the “Adonis” goes perfectly with the luxurious interior.
Best sherry bars in… Paris: Le Sherry Butt
At the bleeding edge of chic, Le Sherry Butt serves unique cocktail fusions like the “Shimbashi” (fino sherry and Japanese whiskey). Pull up a chair for a glimpse at the future of the sherry revival.