“If penicillin can cure those that are ill, Spanish Sherry can bring the dead back to life.” -Sir Alexander Fleming, Nobel Prize winner & inventor of penicillin
Well if that’s the case, we definitely need to hear more. We sat down with Mark Sotelino, General Manager of Cafe Ba-Ba-Ba-Reeba! – Chicago’s original Spanish tapas bar – to get the scoop on this fortified wine. Popular for both sipping and mixing, here’s a look at what you need to know about Sherry including ideas for how to make delicious cocktails with it, like a Sherry Old Fashioned or Cafe Ba-Ba-Reeba!’s Sherry Tart.
Did you know…
Sherry is a fortified wine, meaning that it’s made with white grapes and fortified in barrels with a distilled grape spirit. Dry sherry is made with a grape called Palomino, and Sweet Sherries are typically made with Pedro Ximénez or Moscatel. There are about ten different styles of sherry that differ in sweetness and dryness pending how long it has been oxidized.
All Sherry is made in the same region of southwest Spain, near a town called Jerez de la Frontera in Andalusia. There is no such thing as Sherry from outside of Jerez, just like there is no true Champagne outside of Champagne, France.
Dry vs. Sweet.
Dry Sherry is a more savory wine with higher salinity that is usually served chilled. When it’s dry, Sherry is meant to be an aperitivo (before dinner drink). Sweet Sherries are more of a digestivo (after dinner) and have a raisin-like, nutty flavor (more so than port wine, which is a typical dessert drink), and a dessert-like quality. The most well-known Sherry, Pedro Ximénez is the sweetest.
Not sure which you’d like best? Our menu at Cafe Ba-Ba-Reeba! gives you the chance to taste different styles of sherry.
Let’s talk about food.
We offer our Sherry selection in flights – a dry or sweet flight of three. Dry Sherries have a high salinity, so they go very well with salty, briny tapas, like grilled seafood, jamón or Spanish olives. Having Sherry with ham and olives and some of our house-baked bread is one of the most culturally authentic ways to begin your Spanish dining experience.
And sweet Sherry?
The sweet Sherry flight could stand alone or pair with dessert. Sweet Sherries are a nice complement to tapas desserts. Something as simple as vanilla ice cream can be elevated to a whole new level by sipping Pedro Ximenez alongside it. A dessert with fresh berries, like our Basque Cheesecake, goes wonderfully with a Moscatel sherry (we serve the Lustau “Emilin” Moscatel).
So what’s the big deal?
Cafe Ba-Ba-Reeba! General Manager, Mark Sotelino, told us that although Sherry is not something that the American palate is used to, it’s an important part of Spanish gastronomy and culture.
“We’re seeing a younger generation of curious wine drinkers ordering Sherry more frequently, particularly as an aperitivo to start the meal or even in cocktail form, which has become an exciting new direction in the cocktail world,” Sotelino continued. “I am always excited, and also feel obligated as a Spaniard, to introduce Sherry to new taste buds.”
Sherry cocktails are a thing…
Beyond just sipping, Sherry – particularly a dry Sherry – can be mixed into some tasty drinks. One of our new favorites is Cafe Ba-Ba-Reeba!’s Sherry Tart with Fino Sherry, chambord, lemon, demerara syrup and angostura bitters. Click here for the recipe.
For something more classic try a Sherry Old Fashioned which uses Sherry as a complementary liquor rather than the base, with Palo Cortado Sherry replacing vermouth that you see in a traditional Old Fashioned. It smoothes out the drink by picking up the nutty flavor making it less harsh. Click here for the recipe.
Sold. How can we enjoy Sherry at home?
For dry Sherry, you’ll want to stock your cabinet with Tio Pepe ( about $20), the most well known for sipping as an aperitivo. For sweet Sherry, the most popular is Pedro Ximénez which is the most sweet and concentrated, but we recommend Lustau “Old East India” (about $30) as a beginner sweet Sherry.