Cocktails and Spirits with Paul Clarke: Very Sherry

This is where "covering current events" merges with "shameless self promotion."

In the November-December issue of Imbibe magazine, there's a feature I wrote called "Sherry on Top," about--you guessed it--sherry. Now I'm a dyed-in-the-wool spirits and cocktails guy, and sherry is usually the province of the more oenologically inclined. But sherry is such a strange bird, with its multitude of styles and its solera blending process, that it appealed to the part of me that likes murking about with different combinations of flavors.

Among the things I learned from writing the piece: I really, really like amontillados and olorossos. My previous experiences with sherry had mainly been with either the super-dry finos or the sweet and rich dessert sherries like the creams and the noteworthy Pedro Ximenez; exploring the classes of dry yet robust wines really gave my palate something to get excited about, and I'm hoping to learn more.

Also: if you're serving Japanese food, pick up a couple of bottles of manzanilla. Thanks to Craig Camp, who keeps the Winecamp blog, I now know how to find total culinary satisfaction while enjoying sushi--the crisp, briny taste of Hidalgo's La Gitana manzanilla is a perfect complement to the clean flavor of Japanese cuisine.

Of course, old habits die hard and I can't resist mixing sherry into cocktails. Finos have a long history of being mixed with gin or vermouth, but tequila mixes very well with a variety of sherries, and I've recently taken to mixing a little pear eau de vie into a glass of olorosso (pear also works great with different sherries), with some ginger liqueur to add spice to the mix.

Sherry fans are a dedicated lot, and I hope there are plenty reading this post. What are your favorite styles, brands and bottlings? And for a budding olorosso-phile, where should I turn next?

About the author: Paul Clarke blogs about cocktails at The Cocktail Chronicles and writes regularly on spirits and cocktails for Imbibe magazine. He lives in Seattle, where he works as a writer and magazine editor.

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