Nikki To.

It’s safe to say it’s been a while since sherry was a sought-after drink. Perhaps it’s the association with older generations, assumption it’s sickly sweet, or lack of understanding about what it actually is.

But drinks professionals around the country have commenced an education piece to show people how much the fortified wine can bring to the table (or the bar). Whether it’s offering a wide range of styles or integrating sherry into cocktails, the public is
slowly becoming reacquainted with the beverage. To find out more, Hospitality speaks with Fink Wine Director Amanda Yallop, Tapavino Group Owner Frank Dilernia, and Dessous Bar Manager Sandra Elizabeth.

Fink and Lennox Hastie swung open the doors to Gildas in Sydney back in 2022. While it makes sense sherry is the star of the pintxos venue, Wine Director Amanda Yallop says spotlighting the beverage wasn’t an easy decision. “We weren’t sure how successful the sherry offering was going to be,” she says. “Before we opened, I said, ‘What sort of cocktails can we make using sherry to make sure [the offering is] always fresh?’”

Yallop believes many drinkers dismiss sherry based on its reputation. “The collective memory of sherry is very long, and people remember it as quite a stuffy, old-lady drink, which is incorrect,” she says. “Sherry goes from very crisp, fresh, and dry to unctuously sweet.” The wine director says sweeter sherry styles may have left a lingering aftertaste for some. “Sherry has a bad reputation for the sweeter styles such as cream sherries, pale sherries, and PX. But the quality of those [styles] is the best I’ve ever seen recently.”

It turns out there was no need to worry about the reception of a sherry-centric drinks list, with guests going “crazy” for the offering. The venue has a dedicated sherry menu featuring 20 by-the-glass options and an even larger selection available by the bottle. “There’s so many incredible producers and we like to highlight all our favourites, but it’s much harder than you think to limit it to 20,” says Yallop.

The menu is split into Fino, Manzanilla, Amontillado, Palo Cortado, Oloroso, and naturally sweet (Pedro Ximénez or Moscatel). The selection ranges from dry to sweet, which was important for Yallop who has ensured drinkers can find a style that suits their palate. “It doesn’t matter what your mood is or what you feel like, something’s going to be there for you,” she says.

Currently, producers such as Bodegas Tradición, Toro Albala, and Sanchez Ayala are on the by-the-glass list. Guests can also try Australian sherrystyle drops (usually referred to as Apera) from Seppeltsfield and Ravensworth.

When it comes to serving sherry, Yallop says to go larger with your glassware. “People classically go very, very small,” says the wine director. “I would look at a very small beer glass or an aromatic white wine glass like a Riesling glass.” Yallop says sherry’s high-alcohol content sees most drinkers sip on the beverage, so they opt for a 60ml pour. All sherry wines are also chilled before serving due to Sydney’s warmer room temperature.

Nikki To.

Frank Dilernia from Tapavino Group also believes drinkers are potentially unaware of the wide range of sherry styles, which is something he wants to help change. “Most drinkers are familiar with the sweeter style using the Pedro Ximénez grape, but the magic is often found in the drier styles,” he explains. “They are typically full bodied in character and overwhelmingly dry, which makes them not only wonderful to drink with food but also a great ingredient in cocktails.”

Dilernia and the team have curated extensive sherry offerings across the group’s Sydney venues Tapavino, Balcon, and Born. Each restaurant lists dry and sweet styles of sherry, with Tapavino’s list consisting of around 30 bottles and Balcon’s around 60, which include single-vintage drops and aged varieties.

Just like Gildas, all sherries are served chilled regardless of where they sit on the flavour scale. Dilernia’s glass of choice for sherry is also larger than what is typically used. “We treat our Fino and Manzanilla as wines and not aperitifs, serving 100ml pours in wine glasses — most venues serve much smaller pours,” he says. “I find a larger wine glass allows the wine to develop and you can appreciate the complexity.”

Over in Melbourne, Dessous Bar Manager Sandra Elizabeth is encouraging drinkers to discover different styles of sherry through the venue’s cocktail list. “Sweeter sherries can be a substitute for sugar in your drinks … they bring sweetness, but also introduce depth and body,” she says. “You’ll also find drier-style sherries such as Fino and Amontillado in a lot of gin-based cocktails as the combination works really well together.”

Sherry is currently featured in three cocktails at Dessous including a low-ABV
highball which teams a crisp, citrusy Australian sherry-style wine with elderflower
liquid and the Bright Eyes, which highlights a dry-style Fino sherry teamed with yellow tomato-infused gin, passionfruit, and bitter curacao. “The sherry is aged for three years and has light undertones of green apple which lifts the overall brightness of the drink,” says Elizabeth.

The Too Few Tattoos is Elizabeth’s riff on the Sherry Cobbler, and is “a funky, fruity
cocktail consisting of coal-roasted cantaloupes, grappa, sake, and sherry”, says the bartender. “The combination of flavours introduces grassy, sweet, floral, and salty notes to the cocktail.”

Elizabeth advises bartenders get to know the different styles of sherry and taste them side by side. “Manzanilla sherry typically has salty, light floral notes that I like to use to boost salinity in a cocktail,” she says. “Because of its ageing process, Amontillados are good for creating nuttier, dried fruit, and spice profiles.”

The bar talent tips sherry as one of her most reached-for items, and is appreciative of its versatility in flavour and ability to add body to a drink. “When I create a cocktail, I want the flavours to be bold and complex with a pleasant lingering finish, so sherry is a go-to for creating that nice palate weight.”

While offering a variety of styles is key across the board, consumer knowledge and a desire to try something new is playing a large role in the resurgence of sherry. “People are more informed than ever before and everybody wants to try something they haven’t had before,” says Yallop. “Sherry has a timeless quality to it, and if anything, it’s more relevant. People love to have something different.”

On the other hand, Dilernia isn’t as confident in sherry becoming popular, but it won’t stop him from serving it at his restaurants. “Unless the venue has a wine bar vibe or is Spanish, the drier wine styles are often overlooked as standalone drinks,” he says. “I’m not sure that’s going to change in the future. However, we will keep doing our best to promote it and it will remain an important part of our beverage list for many years.”

When the time comes to refresh the drinks offering at your venue, consider moving sherry into the limelight, whether it’s served solo or in a cocktail.