Sherry Cocktails Shine at Vinos de Jerez Competition

To me, there's something unmistakably adult about cocktails made with sherry, with that deeply savory, almost umami quality present in all sorts of non-blended sherries that gives cocktails a lip-smacking piquancy.

So dropping by Brooklyn’s Clover Club for the annual Vinos de Jerez Cocktail Competition was a no-brainer for me. And while I couldn’t hang long enough to sample all the drinks, I did get to enjoy the winner, made by Charles Joly from Chicago’s Drawing Room. Usually, competitions draw too many recipes where the main, sponsoring ingredient overwhelms; not here. In fact, for me a few of the drinks needed more sherry sass and less citrusy tartness, or showed an intensity from other ingredients that masked the sherry contribution. I know, sometimes a well-balanced cocktail requires that no ingredient shine, but secondary characteristics and layered flavors need room to shine. Suddenly, what seemed a quixotic quest by Steve Olson and his associates to drag sherry back into the American bartender’s tool kit has succeeded, at least at this annual competition. Now, more than a whiff of Andalucia is welcome at the bar again; the folks at the sponsoring Sherry Council of America must be thrilled.

Here’s Joly’s winning recipe:

Bread and Wine
1 ounce Lustau “Don Nuño” Dry Oloroso Sherry
1 ½ ounces Balvenie Scotch Doublewood 12 year old
5 dashes absinthe (preferably Sirène Absinthe)
½ ounce fresh lemon juice
¼ - 1/3 ounce maple syrup (depending on tartness of lemons)

Fill Old Fashioned glass with ice, dash with absinthe and set aside. Combine sherry, Balvenie, lemon juice and maple syrup in a mixing glass. Add ice and shake well. Empty Old Fashioned glass, coating sides with absinthe. Add Kold Draft or large pieces of ice. 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.