With any luck, you’re reading this in a place where the sun is beating down. It certainly is where I am – and it’s making me fantasise about all those drinks that come into their own at the height of summer: shell-pink rosé, clinking spritzers, beers wrenched from mountains of ice and long, cool cocktails scattered with cucumber, borage and mint. Really desert-like heat also always makes me hanker after dry sherry, served stingingly cold – that combination of freshness and salt slakes the thirst like nothing else.
I’d crawl a long way across hot sand for a glass of the new 2018 vintage of Tío Pepe’s excellent Fino En Rama (en rama sherries are bottled “raw”, or unfiltered, straight from the cask, making them extra flavoursome). They’re so pleased with this particular edition they’ve even released it in magnum; turning up at a party with one of these and a stash of salted almonds would be stylish in the extreme. Shoreditch’s hottest new restaurant Brat has also gone big on the sherry – its list of a dozen sherries (sourced with the help of the chaps behind another great oenophile restaurant, Noble Rot) features cult bodegas and bottlers including Equipo Navazos and El Maestro Sierra, all chosen to complement a menu of Basque-style grill cooking and seafood. Sipping a glass of Equipo Navazos Fino En Rama “Saca de Junio’’ 2017 with a plate of Brat’s cloud-like whipped cod’s roe on sourdough toast is about as close to foodie heaven as you can get.
Sherry has a long and illustrious history as a cocktail ingredient too. The sherry cobbler, which sees sherry served with “cobbles” of crushed ice mixed with fresh fruit and citrus liqueurs, was all the rage in the late 1800s. Some claim it was even the cocktail that the drinking straw was invented for. And a lot of top bartenders are now making play with the fino – at The Connaught they use a dash of dry sherry to give a savoury edge to drinks like the Ash Cloud, a mix of tequila, grapefruit sherbet and lime. In the more weighty Frank cocktail, a nutty oloroso sherry is shaken with Dalmore single malt, sloe gin and mandarin.
Yet, despite all this creativity, sherry still suffers in some quarters from an image that’s a bit dusty. One brand that’s hoping to change all that is Xeco, which has released a new duo of sharply styled sherries. I can attest that Xeco’s citrusy fino makes a great sherry cobbler, but it’s also just as good with tonic and ice – a sundowner I’m no longer prepared to let the Spanish keep to themselves.