Gone are the days when sherry would normally conjure images of little old ladies sipping the spirit from dainty glasses. Sherry has been around in one form or another for over 3,000 years (thanks to the Phoenicians), so like everything that has endured, it has gone through cycles of being in fashion; one day something is in, the next, it’s out. And then before you know it, it’s in again. (Just look at comeback of ‘90s fashion.)

Sherry is fortified wine made from the vineyards in the south of Spain (Jerez de la Frontera, Sanlucar de Barrameda, and El Puerto de Santa Maria). A small amount of brandy is added once the fermentation process is complete, so it packs quite a punch. There are a lot of misconceptions about sherry, and it is frequently overlooked at bars and gatherings (When was the last time you heard anyone ordering sherry?). But recently, sherry has been slowly but steadily climbing back up to our collective consciousness. People are open to trying different things, and sherry is one of them. Though most people still need guidance in selecting and discerning different kinds of sherry.

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I was lucky enough to be invited to a Sherry Masterclass by Tio Pepe held at Rambla in Rockwell. Led by Sergio Rostoll of Barcino, the masterclass covered the several kinds of sherry in the Tio Pepe brand, from driest to sweetest.

Sherry Masterclass by Tio Pepe held at Rambla in Rockwell
Sherry Masterclass by Tio Pepe held at Rambla in Rockwell

There are two major categories of dry sherry: those that are biologically aged (under a layer of flor yeast: Fino and Manzanilla) and those that are oxidatively aged (in absence of flor: Oloroso); then there is the mix of two styles (Amontillado and Palo Cortado). The naturally sweet wines are Pedro Ximenez and Moscatel).

We started with the driest kind of sherry, the Fino. The Tio Pepe Palomino Fino, one of the world’s most famous sherries, is very dry, with an almost briny taste.

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Next is the Viña Ab Amontillado. It is a darker color and richer flavor than the Fino, with hints of wood and a salty finish.

The Alfonso Oloroso (oloroso = smell), has no flor (yeast) and has a golden amber color with intense aromas of wood with hints of wood and dried fruits. It has a balanced flavor with hints of nuts and vanilla.

The Palo Cortado (Leonor), the rarest of all varieties, has a characteristic lactic note and is amber colored. It has intense nutty and woody aromas and a long, well-balanced, smooth finish.

Then we had the Solera 1847, a cream sherry (the kind that old ladies love) with a mahogany color, having been mixed with the Pedro Ximenez. It smells of raisins, vanilla, and wood and has a velvety sweet taste with a nutty finish.

Last was the Nectar Pedro Ximenez. It is very dark mahogany in color and has sweet aromas of raisins and caramel. On the palate, it is very sweet, with hints of mature raisins and dates and a velvety finish.

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After that course in sherry appreciation and differentiation, we were treated to a craft cocktail demonstration by guest bartender Edriane Lim from Anti:dote Singapore (the bar that uses sherry in their cocktails the most in Singapore). He presented five cocktails, each using a different sherry (except the Solera): Tomatina, Sherry Cobbler, Black Irish, A:D Scofflaw, and Promontory Point.

A meter-long instrument called a venecia is used to pour Sherry from the barrel
A meter-long instrument called a venecia is used to pour Sherry from the barrel
%22Venenciador%22 (Sherry pourer) Alejandro Benitez’s quick lesson on how to pour Sherry using a venecia copy
Venenciador (Sherry pourer) Alejandro Benitez’s quick lesson on how to pour Sherry using a venecia

If that wasn’t enough information and drinks to swallow, we were treated to professional “Venenciador” (Sherry pourer) Alejandro Benitez’s quick lesson on how to pour Sherry from the barrel. Armed with a meter-long instrument called a venecia, he demonstrated the proper technique of pouring Sherry. Several guests were game to try it out. Of course the fact that we had had quite a bit of the potent wine (plus cocktails) had something to do with the jovial ambiance. It was a fun way to end a packed afternoon all about sherry.

Recipe of the Five Cocktails:

TOMATINA

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Inspired by the tomato-throwing festival in Spain, it’s like a pale Bloody Mary. It has a dry umami taste that would go well with Iberico ham.


Ingredients:

  • 45 ml gin
  • 30 ml Tio Pepe
  • 25 ml tomato essence
  • 15 ml lemon
  • 15 ml sugar

Directions:

  1. Add all ingredients and shake well.

SHERRY COBBLER

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This cocktail is made with bourbon with a hint of fruit. Other kinds of berries are usually used, but for this drink, he only used strawberries.


Ingredients:

  • 45 ml amontillado
  • 30 ml bourbon
  • 15 lemon juice
  • 15 ml sugar
  • Muddled fresh fruit (berries)

Directions:

  1. Add all ingredients and shake well.

BLACK IRISH

This recipe activates the back part of the palate, nice layers. Citrusy on the nose, well balanced with an oily film on top.


Ingredients:

  • 45 ml Irish whiskey
  • 30 ml Oloroso
  • 15 ml Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur
  • 15 ml layered Pedro Ximenez sherry

Directions:

  1. Mix all ingredients and stir.

SCOFFLAW

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The highlight for me was the A:D Scofflaw (a prohibition cocktail). It had a burst of bold flavor, layers of lemon, sherry and whisky, and a short finish. It was refreshing and a little spicy.


Ingredients:

  • 60 ml rye whiskey
  • 30 ml Palo Cortado sherry
  • 25 ml lemon juice
  • 25 ml ginger syrup

Directions:

  1. Add all ingredients and shake well.

PROMONTORY POINT

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This recipe is from Chicago. It’s full-bodied and well balanced with a woody aroma and a smooth, lingering finish.


Ingredients:

  • 45 ml rye whiskey
  • 15 ml sweet vermouth
  • 15 ml Yellow Chartreuse
  • 15 ml Palo Cortado sherry
  • 2 dashes Angostura bitters
  • 2 dashes orange bitters

Directions:

  1. Mix all ingredients and stir.

Restaurateur, expert drinker, creative proprietor of steam punk bar Hooch, SMITH Butcher and Grill Room, Ebeneezers, Poulet Manille, and Ampersand. She wrote The Standard newspaper’s Tipple Tales cocktail and spirits column and co-hosted the Manila episode of the Travel Channel show Booze Traveler with cocktail connoisseur Jack Maxwell. She is DrinkManila’s resident mixology expert.

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