To say that sherry is experiencing a “boom” may be to overstate the case. But there is a movement afoot, however modest, to shed new light on the fortified wine from Andalusia, as anyone who spends time in cocktail bars or farm-to-table restaurants can attest.
It is only in the recent past that sherry was considered a relic, something swept up long ago in the dustbin of mixological history. In the middle decades of the nineteenth century, during the first “great awakening” of American cocktails, sherry was a common ingredient in the bartender’s cabinet. The fledgling nation relied on imported wines, and sherry was a favorite. Indeed, one of the most popular cocktails of the era was the sherry cobbler, a tipple born of the confluence of the wine’s popularity, the emerging commercial ice trade, and the annexation of Florida (and her citrus and sugar harvests).
At Austin’s Backbeat, situated in the stretch of hip new businesses popping up on South Lamar, bar manager Ania Robbins has a fresh interpretation of the classic drink: fino sherry is fortified with China-China (a bitter orange–gentian liqueur); grapefruit replaces the traditional orange; and orgeat (almond syrup) enhances the nuttiness of the sherry. It is served in the traditional fashion, over crushed ice and topped with macerated seasonal fruits.
“We first tried a sherry cobbler on the Drink.Well menu four years ago,” says co-owner Jessica Sanders, of Backbeat’s sister bar. “I think it was ahead of its time. Nobody knew what sherry was. This year, most cocktail bars will be doing something with sherry.” As the hot summer afternoons beckon, there will be no more refreshing way to celebrate sherry’s comeback than with this infinitely quaffable cobbler.
2 1/2 ounces fino sherry
1 ounce fresh grapefruit juice
3/4 ounce Bigallet China-China Amer
1/2 ounce orgeat
Shake all ingredients and serve in a highball glass over crushed ice. Garnish with a spoonful of lightly preserved seasonal berries.