Friday Night Cocktail: Up-To-Date
No matter how many times I try, I can’t quite seem to get a handle on sherry. I know the fundamentals: that it’s a fortified wine made in certain regions of Spain, that it’s fermented by a film-forming yeast called flor, and that it’s aged in a fractional blending system called a solera. But once you get deeper than that, I start to get lost: Is a Manzanilla drier or sweeter than an Oloroso? (Usually drier, though that’s a simplification.) Which styles aren’t oxidized during aging? (Fino and Manzanilla.)
When it comes to cocktails, some fortified wines have more cachet than others. No bar would be complete without sweet and dry vermouth, and many cocktail aficionados insist on having a quinquina such as Lillet or Dubonnet. Sherry gets pretty short shrift these days, though, being largely relegated to the kitchen in onion or mushroom soup. And that’s a shame because it’s delicious and makes a great cocktail ingredient.
Many traditional cocktail recipes that call for sherry also call for other fortified wines; consider the Bamboo or the Adonis. But fortified wines don’t have much of a shelf life once opened, so unless you’re a bar that can go through them quickly, it’s hard to have more than one or two on hand at a time, and sherry doesn’t often make the cut. The problem is compounded by the fact that many of the more sherry-heavy historical recipes are endangered species of drinks, such as Cobblers and Flips. (Though believe me when I tell you that an egg nog made with a good Pedro Ximenez sherry is a thing of beauty!)
Luckily, there are lots of more accessible drinks that use sherry’s distinctive dry nuttiness to great effect. Next time you’re making onion soup, be sure to buy a good sherry – you shouldn’t be using “cooking sherry” anyway – and tip some of it into your cocktail shaker. It makes a great substitute for dry vermouth in a Martini (a variation I’ve seen called a Tuxedo). Or you can start with an Up-To-Date. It may not be as up-to-date as it once was, but I think it deserves a revival.
How to make an Up-To-Date
- 1.5 oz. dry sherry
- 1.5 oz. bourbon
- 1 tsp. Grand Marnier
- 2 dashes Angostura bitters
Combine all ingredients in a mixing glass, fill with ice, stir for a slow count of 20, and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with an orange twist.