By Beanie Geraedts-Espey, Co-Founder XECO ‘next generation’ sherry
SHERRY is quietly celebrating the 200th anniversary of the first ever sherry cocktail created in the USA: the Sherry Cobbler, in the 1820s. A refreshing combination of sugar, sherry and muddled seasonal fruit over crushed ice and optionally topped with soda, it has given rise to myriad sherry spritzes and highballs the most famous of which is the “rebujito” (more below) which is served in jugs and drunk by the gallon in Andalucia during the Spring and Summer festivals.
“The roaring 2020s are poised to welcome back the sherry cocktail. Fino is not only deliciously bone dry, but also less than half the alcohol level of spirits,” says Ben Howkins, fortified wine expert and author of new book devoted entirely to Sherry.
Miran Chauhan, XECO Ambassador and Head Bartender of The Buck & Birch in Edinburgh, feels the same way, “As a Bartender, one of the first things you are taught is the importance sherry has had on the influence of cocktails through the ages. The versatility, complexity and ABV bridges beautifully between a spirit and a wine: floral to vegetal – oak to autolytic – intensity to acidity; the variety and volume of characteristics present in sherries outnumber nearly all other category of alcoholic beverages.”
The defining purpose of XECO which was launched in late 2017 was to breathe new life into a category that is beloved of Somms and Bartenders but all too often overlooked by contemporary consumers. The question, “what do you think of sherry?” is very rarely met with distaste, but all too often with, “why is that relevant to me?” – which is somewhat reminiscent of the perception of Gin in the 70s and 80s. As a self-titled ‘next generation sherry’ our mission is to help consumers see why sherry belongs in their drinks cabinet – or better still their fridge!
Our emphasis lies firmly on the dry styles of sherry, notably Fino, which has all the hallmarks of a modern classic:
- PROVENANCE: Produced using traditional methods within a protected Denomination of Origin (the oldest in Spain)
- LOW-ABV: At 15% ABV, Fino sherry is far lighter in alcohol than people think making it excellent sipped quietly on its own OR a ready substitute for higher alcohol white spirits (typically 40%) in a spritz
- LOW-CAL: Fino – and its cousin Manzanilla – have no more than 5g/litre of residual sugar making them some of the least calorific alcoholic beverages out there (< 70 cals when paired with slimline tonic)
Our confidence in their bright future of Fino in particular is shared by fellow winemakers, where there is a growing trend in producing single estate Fino as well as unfortified white wines from the region. Celebrated winemaker Peter Sisseck of Dominio de Pingus released his first Fino “Viña Corrales” in 2020 to much fanfare and has always claimed that Fino sherry is the best white wine produced in Spain. But while their emphasis is rightly on creating exceptional white wines for wine lovers, our focus at XECO is on opening up the category to a broader audience – through the medium of sherry cocktails.
“In and of itself, sherry can be as complex and multi-layered as a cocktail, and indeed Fino sherry is bone dry, which can be challenging for drinkers who are expecting something with more fruit,” says sherry lover and singer-songwriter Nick Africano, who is the founder of En Rama NYC. “Sherry cocktails offer opportunities to demystify these wines by introducing drinkers to their flavour profiles in a more familiar format. As we approach spring and summer, my go-to sherry cocktail is a spin on the Rebujito: a frozen Rebujito, incorporating a sherry-based white vermouth. I secretly dream of serving these out of a food truck at a music festival!”
Like any white wine, Fino sherry is best served chilled and fresh, which is why ours is available in approachable 50cl bottles. Nevertheless, due to the fortification, Fino can live on uninhibited in your fridge for a while longer than you’d expect, so we developed a fun and simple ‘7 Days – 7 Ways’ programme to inspire consumers to get creative with their opened bottle of Fino:
- Monday – A zingy XECO Ginger to warm the cockles after a dreary Monday commute.
- Tuesday – A chilled glass, STRAIGHT-UP with your favourite person.
- Wednesday – A TUXEDO MARTINI because ‘Yes!’ you’re over half-way through the week.
- Thursday – A simple yet sophisticated SPARKLE to impress your buddy who’s popped over for pizza.
- Friday – Kicking off the weekend with a Friday FIN’TONIC, the perfect appetite whetter.
- Saturday – Drink it as the Spanish do, in a XECO’JITO while watching the game.
- Sunday – We chill. Treat yourself to a XECO’NI – our riff on a Negroni – while cooking up lunch…
“Why do bartenders and mixologists adore sherry? Because the category gives us so much creative freedom,” says Chantal Tseng, founder of Custom Cocktails for the End Times. “With Sherry’s complex aromatic profile, over 300 volatile aromatic compounds at any given sniff, one could just as easily add brilliant, savoury nuance to a stirred aperitif as incorporate rich chocolatey structure to a seven ingredient tropical rum combination. Sherry is simply the perfect host when mixing.”
So, without further ado, here are some recipes to get experimenting with…
Long Sloe Summer, Miran Chauhan
- 2oz XECO Fino Sherry
- 2oz Sloe Gin
- Tonic Water, to taste
Build the drink in a large ice-filled wine glass and garnish with a selection of your favourite seasonal red berries.
Frozen Rebujito, Nick Africano
In a blender:
- 2.5oz Fino Sherry
- 0.25oz lime juice
- 0.5 simple sugar syrup
- 0.75 lustau white vermouth
- 5-6 mint leaves
- Splash of seltzer
- Scoop of ice
Blend and serve, garnished with a few fresh mint sprigs
“Freshly Sage Intuitions in a Bitter World”, Chantal Tseng
Chill a Coupe. Then add to your Shaker:
- 2 torn leaves of sage
- 2 torn leaves of mint
- 1.5 oz. Rye Whiskey
- 0.75 oz. Oloroso Sherry
- 0.75 oz. Campari
- 0.5 oz. fresh lemon juice
Fill with cracked ice and shake for about 15 seconds. Double-strain into your chilled glass. Express the oils of a lemon peel, over the glass at a 45 degree angle. Garnish your lemon peel then wrapped around 3 further fresh sage leaves and a bunch of fresh mint.
For more information on XECO wines and sherry cocktail ideas please visit www.xecowines.com or @xecowines on Instagram.
“SHERRY: Maligned, Misunderstood, Magnificent” by Ben Howkins is available to buy through the Academie du Vin: https://academieduvinlibrary.com/product/sherry/
CHECK OUT OUR RECENT LIVE INTERVIEW WITH BEANIE HERE!
Co-Founder XECO ‘next generation’ sherry
www.xecowines.com or @xecowines on Instagram.